A top German official says he expects the federal cabinet to approve the first part of the government’s marijuana legalization plan “next week,” and he emphasized that the reform will be coupled with a “major campaign” to educate the public about the risks of using cannabis.
In an interview with Rheinische Post that was published on Wednesday, Health Minister Karl Lauterbach was asked about the status of the legalization proposal that was unveiled last month.
“I expect the cannabis approval to come into the cabinet next week. There will be small changes,” he said, according to a translation.
“But I can already say this much: parallel to the legislation, we will run a major campaign to draw attention to the risks of cannabis consumption,” the health minister said. “Cannabis is particularly harmful to the still-growing brain. The brain is still being remodeled up to the age of 25. Anyone who consumes in this age phase is particularly harmful.”
“My goal is that we reduce cannabis use among young people and make it safer for those who want to use it,” he added.
It’s not clear what kind of “small changes” might have been made, but the draft legislation that was released last month would allow adults to possess up to 25 grams of cannabis and cultivate a maximum of three plants for personal use. It would also create social clubs where adults could obtain marijuana.
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. 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.
The summary of the 163-page bill 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 sometime in the second half of the year 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.
After the cannabis legislation’s expected advancement through the cabinet next week, it would then go to the Bundestag, the country’s national legislature, for formal approval.
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The health minister 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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