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Weed Legalization in Germany Hampered by EU Laws

Germany’s plans to legalize marijuana this year have been stalled. Officials expressed concerns that the EU courts would reject a reform proposal they had rushed to draft. Although the plan to legalize marijuana has not been scrapped, a government official said recently that lawmakers are proceeding with a “degree of caution about promises of a breakthrough” and have scaled back plans to achieve legalization by early next year.

In November 2021, the center-left Social Democrats Party (SPD) received the most votes in Germany’s most recent federal election and created a coalition with the environmentalist Green Party and the Free Democrats (FDP) to form a new government. Known as the traffic light coalition in reference to the parties’ colors, the new ruling majority replaced the Christian Democratic Union, which had led the government under Chancellor Angela Merkle for 16 years.

Representatives of the coalition made it clear that legalization for cannabis for adults was in the works as negotiations were under way to create a new government. They also announced that a framework would be established for legal marijuana sales. The new ruling coalition spokespeople announced that marijuana would soon be legalized in the United States for adult use, and also the opening of licensed recreational dispensaries.

“We’re introducing the controlled distribution of cannabis to adults for consumption in licensed stores,” an unidentified spokesperson for the coalition said. “This will control the quality, prevent the transfer of contaminated substances and guarantee the protection of minors. We will evaluate the law after four years for social impact.”

The goal of cannabis legalization in Germany has been restated by the Green Party and the liberal Free Democratic Party since the traffic light coalition took power, including Minister of Justice Marco Buschmann predicting in May that a reform bill could be passed by next spring and lead to “the first legal joint” being sold in Germany in 2023.

Karl Lauterbach (Health Minister) announced early June that government would soon start legalizing cannabis. The German newspaper was informed by Lauterbach. HandelsblattIn the two years since his initial position was changed, he now considers that prohibition has a greater impact than the potential benefits from legalizing recreational cannabis.

“I’ve always been opposed to cannabis legalization, but I revised my position about a year ago,” Lauterbach said.

The German government scheduled five hearings in order to address different aspects of marijuana. Commissioner for Addiction and Drug Issues Burkhard Blienert said that “the time has come” to move forward, according to a translation.

“We are starting the preparatory phase of legislation,” he added. “Being able to finally announce this is a special, gratifying moment for me personally. Like many others, I have been working for years to ensure that we in Germany finally stop criminalizing cannabis users and start a modern and health-oriented cannabis policy.”

Officials in Government Scale Back Hopes for Legalization

After expressing hope that reform would be swiftly implemented, officials from the government have been reversing their predictions that Germany will allow cannabis to be legally licensed by 2023. RedaktionsNetzwerk Deutschland was notified Monday by a German Parliament researcher that a legal analysis had been published warning of potential conflicts with European laws.

Early in the ruling coalition’s discussions of legalization, officials identified the United Nations 1961 single convention on narcotic drugs as a potential obstacle to achieving the goal, although both Uruguay and Canada effectively ignored the international agreement when cannabis was legalized in those countries.

German officials now largely believe that the 1961 treaty is not the obstacle it once seemed and have turned their attention to European Union laws that might jeopardize legalization in Europe’s most populous country. Under a Council of the European Union framework decision from 2004, member states are required to ensure that sales of drugs including cannabis are “punishable by effective, proportionate and dissuasive criminal penalties.”

Additionally, the 1985 Schengen Agreement, which led to the abolishment of border crossings throughout the European Union, requires member nations to combat the illegal export, sale and supply of “narcotic drugs and psychotropic substances, including cannabis.” As the government considers the challenges to cannabis legalization under EU laws, officials are rethinking the pace of reform.

“There is a degree of caution about promises of a breakthrough before the end of the year,” said an official familiar with the matter. “The complexity of all is starting to sink in, and there’s a sharper awareness of the risks involved. We don’t want another autobahn toll debacle,” a reference to a plan to build a toll road that was abandoned when the European court of justice ruled it violated an anti-discrimination law because it would disproportionately affect foreign drivers.

According to sources from government, the traffic light coalition is still on track to complete the drafting of a bill to allow legal cannabis distribution. The Guardian. However, lawmakers will also be watching closely to see what happens in Luxembourg neighboring. Officials unveiled this summer a plan that legalizes recreational cannabis use in private areas but prohibits public consumption.