Germany will legalize the use of cannabis for recreational purposes

By Riham Alkousaa

BERLIN (Reuters) – Germany unveiled a plan to legalize cannabis on Wednesday, a move that Chancellor Olaf Scholz’s government says would make Germany one of the first countries in Europe to do so.

Health Minister Karl Lauterbach presented a key document on planned legislation to regulate the controlled distribution and recreational use of cannabis among adults.

The acquisition and possession of 20-30 grams of recreational cannabis for personal consumption would also be legal.

Last year, the coalition government reached an agreement to introduce legislation during its four-year term to allow the controlled distribution of cannabis in licensed stores.

Lauterbach did not provide a timeline for the plan.

Many countries in the region have already legalized cannabis for limited medicinal purposes, including Germany since 2017. Others have decriminalized its general use, stopping before making it legal.

According to the document, private self-cultivation would be allowed to a limited extent. Ongoing investigations and criminal proceedings related to cases no longer illegal would be closed.

The government will also introduce a special consumption tax and develop cannabis-related education and prevention programs.

Legalizing cannabis could bring Germany annual tax revenue and cost savings of around 4.7 billion euros ($ 4.7 billion) and create 27,000 new jobs, according to a survey found last year.

About 4 million people consumed cannabis in Germany last year, 25% of whom were between the ages of 18 and 24, Lauterbach said, adding that legalization would eliminate the black market for cannabis.

Germany will submit the document to the European Commission for pre-evaluation and will draft a law only after the Commission has approved the plan, the minister added.

“If the European Commission says no to Germany’s current approach, our government should look for alternative solutions. Not just say, well, we did our best,” said Niklas Kouparanis, CEO of Bloomwell Group, one of the largest. German cannabis companies.

Berlin should have a plan B if the EU rejects legalization, Kouparanis said, adding that cannabis imports should be allowed as home cultivation will not be able to meet demand in the short term.

The decision has already sparked a mix of reactions in Europe’s largest economy.

The association of German pharmacists warned of the health risks of legalizing cannabis and said it would put pharmacies in medical conflict.

Pharmacists are health professionals, so “a possible competitive situation with purely commercial suppliers is viewed particularly critically,” Thomas Preis, head of the North Rhine Pharmacists Association, told the Rheinische Post newspaper.

The legalization plan was not welcomed by all federal states. The Bavarian health minister, for example, warned that Germany should not become a drug tourism destination in Europe.

But the German Greens said decades of cannabis prohibition only exacerbated the risks.

“Because conditions that are too restrictive for the legal market only promote the black market for particularly strong cannabis,” lawmaker Kirsten Kappert-Gonther said Wednesday.

Lars Mueller, CEO of German cannabis company SynBiotic, said Wednesday’s pitch was “almost like winning the lottery” for his company.

“When the time comes, we will be able to offer franchise models for cannabis stores in addition to our own stores,” Mueller said.

($ 1 = 0.9995 euros)

(Reportage by Riham Alkousaa, editing by Miranda Murray and Bernadette Baum)

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