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Karl Lauterbach, then-health policy spokesman, in center, speaks at an event on February 11, 2013. Health Minister Karl Lauterbach said the legalization of cannabis is necessary to end Germany’s “unsuccessful fight against drug-related crime,” and its flourishing black market.

Karl Lauterbach, then-health policy spokesman, in center, speaks at an event on February 11, 2013. Health Minister Karl Lauterbach said the legalization of cannabis is necessary to end Germany’s “unsuccessful fight against drug-related crime,” and its flourishing black market. (Wikimedia Commons)

Germany on Wednesday announced plans to legalize cannabis for recreational use. It was a move the country’s health minister said would make Germany Europe’s “most liberal cannabis legalization project,” but also its “most tightly regulated market.”

Presenting a detailed cornerstone paper laying out a slate of regulations to Germany’s cabinet Wednesday, Health Minister Karl Lauterbach said the legalization of cannabis is necessary to end Germany’s “unsuccessful fight against drug-related crime,” and its flourishing black market. The goal of the change is to reduce consumption, especially for young people, he said in a tweet.

Under the government’s new plans, cannabis and THC will no longer be classified as narcotics. The substances will be able to be produced, supplied and distributed to people 18 or older, within a licensed and government-regulated environment — including specialist shops and, “if necessary,” pharmacies. Adults can possess 20 to 30 grams of recreational cannabis, both in private and in public.

And Germans will be able to cultivate their own cannabis, to some extent.

“The drug policy must be renewed. We want to reform cannabis consumption from a health perspective,” the government’s key issues paper said. Lauterbach said that 4 million people in Germany used cannabis last year, a quarter of whom were between ages 18 and 24.

The regulations were formed after “intensive exchange” with experts, interest groups and Germany’s Commissioner for Drug and Addiction Policy, the paper noted. The controlled legalization aims to curb the black market, and improve health protections for users, especially younger ones, it added.

Germany also plans to impose a “cannabis tax,” and a potential upper limit of THC content for adults under 21. Advertising for cannabis will be completely prohibited, and neutral outside packaging will be required.

There is no set timeline for the plan, and the draft rules still need to be assessed by the European Commission and made into law. Medical marijuana, in limited circumstances, has been legal in Germany since 2017.

Lauterbach, of the ruling Social Democrats, said in his presentation that he had tested out cannabis. “I can only say that I have actually tried it. I have also made that public,” he said while presenting the regulations. “However, I am not a user and I would not benefit from this regulation either, because I only took it to see what it’s like.

Reacting to the announcement, Berlin-based cannabis company the Sanity Group said in a statement that the German government’s proposal contained “interesting approaches and some fruitful frameworks,” but also some aspects worth critiquing.

A total advertising ban is not conducive to education and destigmatization of the drug, said Sanity Group CEO Finn Hansel. “A completely new legal market is developing in which consumers must orient themselves responsibly,” he added.

He also called out the restriction of imports, saying national demand will not be able to be met by German production alone.

Pointing out the government’s rule that edibles will not initially be allowed, he said that “by restricting the dosage forms, you give the illicit market a gateway to offer more edibles in the future.”

To Germany’s west, France maintains strict marijuana laws, forbidding all recreational use. The same applies for neighbors Poland and Denmark. Other countries, including Switzerland, Belgium and Austria, keep the substance illegal but allow or do not prosecute small amounts. Under “the Dutch policy of toleration,” the Netherlands allows coffee shops to sell hash and marijuana to residents.

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