Germany’s Parliament Approves Marijuana Legalization Bill

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Germany’s parliament has officially approved a bill to legalize marijuana nationwide.

Two days after the cannabis legislation was considered by eight committees of the Bundestag, the full body voted 407-226 on final passage on Friday.

The bill—which will make possession and home cultivation legal and authorize social clubs that can distribute marijuana to members—now heads to the Bundesrat, a separate legislative chamber that represents German states, though its members cannot stop the reform from being enacted.

While supporters have said legalization would take effect in April if it’s enacted, there are new questions about that timeline. The Bundesrat may move to refer the legislation to a mediation committee to address criminal justice-related implications of the law, which could mean several months of additional discussion.

The floor vote comes weeks after leaders of Germany’s so-called traffic light coalition government announced that they’d reached a final agreement on the legalization bill, resolving outstanding concerns, primarily from the Social Democratic Party (SPD).

Health Minister Karl Lauterbach, who has for months been the government’s lead on the cannabis plan, said ahead of the floor vote that the country is “fundamentally changing our cannabis control policy in order to combat the black market.”

“The second goal is better protection for children and young people,” he said, pointing to high youth use rates under the current law and saying that the legalization proposal is an “urgently needed modernization of our cannabis policy.”

Kirsten Kappert-Gonthe of the Green Party called the current system of criminalization “absurd,” saying that prohibition has created a situation where “children and young people in our country can easily get cannabis on every corner” due to the lack of regulations that the legal market, in contrast, will institute.

Kristine Lütke, a lawmaker with the Free Democratic Party (FDP), said legalization “strengthens individual freedom in Germany.”

“Today a chapter comes to an end and a new one begins,” she said. “We are talking about a historical turning point. We are voting for a paradigm shift in German cannabis policy.”

Under legalization, “consumers know where the cannabis comes from, how much they have, how much it contains and know that it is not mixed with substances that are harmful to health—much more dangerous drugs,” Lütke said.

Members of the center-right CDU/CSU alliance strongly opposed the reform. Lawmaker Simone Bourchardt, for example, argued that legalization “would be an additional burden” on the country’s “strained health system,” pointing to marijuana’s “impairment of cognitive abilities.”

Ahead of the final vote, lawmakers rejected opposition motions to block legalization from CDU/CSU and Alternative for Germany.

Germans support legalization, but only by a narrow margin, according to a new poll. Forty-seven percent back the reform, compared to 42 percent who are against, with another 11 percent undecided, the survey from YouGov found.

A final vote on the legalization bill that was initially planned in December was ultimately called off amid concerns from SPD leaders.

Lawmakers had already delayed their first debate on the legislation, which was ultimately held in October, ostensibly due to the conflict in Israel and Palestine. They also pushed back a vote scheduled for November as supporters worked on improvements to the bill.

At a meeting in December, the health minister took questions from members, some of whom oppose legalization. At several points, he pushed back against lawmakers who suggested that legalization would send the wrong message to youth and lead to increased underage consumption, saying their arguments “misrepresented” the legislation.

Lawmakers also recently made a raft of adjustments to the bill, mostly designed to loosen restrictions that faced opposition from advocates and supporters in the Bundestag. They included increasing home possession maximums and removing the possibility of jail time for possessing slightly more than the allowable limit.

The legislators further agreed to stagger the implementation of the reform, planning to make possession and home cultivation legal for adults beginning in April. Social clubs where members could obtain marijuana would open in July.

Officials are eventually planning to introduce a complementary second measure that would establish pilot programs for commercial sales in cities throughout the country. That legislation is expected to be unveiled after its submitted to the European Commission for review.

For what it’s worth, the Bundesrat representing German states previously tried to block the proposed reform in September but ultimately failed.


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Lawmakers in the Bundestag recently held a hearing in the Health Committee, at which opponents criticized some elements of the proposal.

The body also heard a competing policy proposal from The Union, a political alliance of the Christian Democratic Union and Christian Social Union (CDU/CSU), that would not legalize marijuana but instead “improve health protection and strengthen education, prevention and research,” Kappert-Gonther said at the time.

The health minister responded to early criticism of the bill from medical and law enforcement groups by emphasizing that the reform would be coupled with a “major campaign” to educate the public about the risks of using cannabis.

While Germany’s Federal Cabinet approved the initial framework for a legalization measure in late 2022, the government also said it wanted to get signoff from the EU to ensure that enacting the reform wouldn’t put them in violation of their international obligations.

The framework was the product of months of review and negotiations within the German administration and the traffic light coalition government. Officials took a first step toward legalization in 2022, kicking off a series of hearings meant to help inform legislation to end prohibition in the country.

Government officials from multiple countries, including the U.S., also met in Germany last November to discuss international marijuana policy issues as the host nation works to enact legalization.

A group of German lawmakers, as well as Narcotics Drugs Commissioner Burkhard Blienert, separately visited the U.S. and toured California cannabis businesses in 2022 to inform their country’s approach to legalization.

The visit came after top officials from Germany, Luxembourg, Malta and the Netherlands held a first-of-its-kind meeting to discuss plans and challenges associated with recreational marijuana legalization.

Leaders of the coalition government said in 2021 that they had reached an agreement to end cannabis prohibition and enact regulations for a legal industry, and they first previewed certain details of that plan last year.

A novel international survey that was released in 2022 found majority support for legalization in several key European countries, including Germany.

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