German lawmakers say that initial consideration of a bill to legalize marijuana will be delayed until at least next week due to the ongoing conflict in Israel that’s shifted international attention—though one legislator outlined a revised schedule that still puts the country on track to enact the first part of the government’s legal cannabis plan by early next year.
While Germany’s federal parliament, called the Bundestag, was scheduled to take up the cannabis reform legislation for a first reading on Friday, the scheduled debate has been postponed until next week, according to Carmen Wegge and Dirk Heidenblut of the Social Democratic Party.
They said the “global political situation” is the reason for the delay, but lawmakers “will make sure that everything gets done somehow in the next week,” according to a translation.
Das Cannabis Gesetz wird aufgrund der internationalen Lage wohl erst nächste Woche in der ersten Lesung im Bundestag sein. Wir gehen davon aus, dass es dadurch zu keinen zeitlichen Verzögerungen kommt. Und selbstverständlich sind wir solidarisch mit Israel. pic.twitter.com/9TXkaGEjb3
— Carmen Wegge (@CarmenWegge) October 10, 2023
But Thorsten Frei, a member of the minority Christian Democratic Union that falls outside of the majority traffic light coalition government, told the Legal Tribune Online that the decision to cancel Friday’s planned debate was “surprising” and was more about internal concerns about the legislation than the foreign war.
According to RND, the temporarily delay for initial debate on the bill could jeopardize the broader legislative schedule to get the reform enacted before a deadline of December 15. If lawmakers don’t get it across the finish line by that time, legalization would need to wait until February 2024 at earliest.
However, Kristine Lütke of the Free Democratic Party outlined the revised schedule in a post on Wednesday and suggested the timeline as amended still puts the legislature in a position to get the reform into law by the beginning of next year.
She said the first reading in the Bundestag will take place next week. Then the Health Committee will take it up November 6. The second and third (final) reading will occur on November 16, Lütke said.
1. Lesung des CannG – nächste Woche
Anhörung im Gesundheitsausschuss – 6.11.2023
2./3. Lesung des CannG – 16.11.2023
Mögliches in Kraft treten: Januar 2024
— Kristine Lütke MdB (@kristine_lutke) October 11, 2023
The scheduled action came after opponents to the reform bill failed to muster enough support to block the measure in Germany’s legislative body representing individual states, which is called the Bundesrat, last month.
A translation of a notice published on the official Bundestag site says that “discussion of the initiative was removed from the agenda” for Friday, but it did not explain the reason for the delay.
In a separate statement posted on Thursday, the Bundestag noted that state representatives are concerned about “high financial consequences for the states due to control and enforcement as well as prevention and intervention tasks” with “control of cultivation associations is given as an example.”
But “the federal government does not share the Bundesrat’s concerns about the enforcement effort,” the post says.
“The estimated total number of 3,000 cultivation associations will probably only be reached after five years,” it continues. “The states could gradually adjust their personnel and material resources capacities. In addition, the federal government expects decriminalization to make major savings for the states through fewer criminal charges and fewer criminal proceedings. The funds saved could be used for monitoring grower associations and for addiction prevention.”
Opponents in the federal Bundestag also have a motion to block consideration of the legalization bill that is expected to be considered at the Health Committee meeting on November 6.
The legalization measure is being spearheaded by Health Minister Karl Lauterbach. The proposal, which was unveiled in July, would allow adults to legally possess cannabis and cultivate a maximum of three plants for personal use.
It would also create social clubs that could distribute marijuana to members, with purchase limits for people over the age of 21 of 25 grams of cannabis per day—up to a total of 50 grams per month—and a lower 30 grams per month limit for those between the ages of 18 and 21.
Those facilities could not be located within 200 meters of a school, and each given city or district could only have one club for every 6,000 residents, and there would be a limit of 500 members per club. A social club permit would be valid for up to seven years, with the possibility of receiving an extension after five years. Membership to the clubs would have to last at least two months under the draft bill.
A summary of the legislation also outlines estimates of the costs of implementing and regulating the program, as well as savings from reduced enforcement and new revenue that’s expected to be created through wage taxes from people working at cannabis clubs.
Officials are also 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.
The measure as previously described by officials would allow cannabis sales at retailers in select jurisdictions as part of the pilot program that would allow the country to assess further reform over five years. Specifically, officials would study the impact of the shops on consumption trends and the illicit market. Localities would need to opt in to allow the stores to operate.
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Several medical and law enforcement associations have voiced opposition to the legalization proposal, but Lauterbach, the health minister, has emphasized that the reform will be coupled with a “major campaign” to educate the public about the risks of using cannabis.
He first shared details about the revised legalization plan in April. The next month, he distributed the legislative text to cabinet officials.
Formal legislation detailing the government’s previously announced framework was initially set to be released by the end of the first quarter of 2023, but that timeline was extended “due to scheduling reasons” as officials worked to revise it in order to avoid a potential conflict with international laws.
Lawmakers who have pushed the government for far-reaching cannabis legalization policies reacted mostly positively to the government’s April announcement spelling out certain policy proposals, though some did point out areas they’d like to see improved.
The health minister said in March that German officials had received “very good feedback” from the EU on the prior reform framework.
Germany’s Federal Cabinet approved the initial framework for a legalization measure late last year, but the government wanted to get sign-off 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 country’s “traffic light” coalition government. Officials took a first step toward legalization last summer, kicking off a series of hearings meant to help inform legislation to end prohibition in the country.
A group of German lawmakers, as well as Narcotics Drugs Commissioner Burkhard Blienert, visited the U.S. and toured California cannabis businesses last year to inform their country’s approach to legalization.
The visit came about two months 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 last year found majority support for legalization in several key European countries, including Germany.
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