Germans can now also legally use cannabis

Henry

Germany on Monday became the largest EU country to legalize the use of cannabis for recreational purposes, despite fierce opposition from opposition politicians and medical associations.

Those over 18 are now allowed to have 25 grams of dried cannabis with them and, in terms of the much-discussed new legislation, may also grow up to three marijuana plants at home.

The change means Germany now has some of the most liberal cannabis legislation in all of Europe. This is similar to legislation from countries such as Malta and Luxembourg, which already legalized the use of the drug for recreation in 2021 and 2023 respectively.

The Netherlands, well-known for its easy-going approach to the medium, has in recent times, however, begun to take a stricter approach with cannabis tourism.

In Berlin, shortly after midnight – when the legislation came into effect – hundreds of people cheered and lit day gazolles at the iconic Brandenburg Gate.

In the next step of the legal reform process, from 1 July it will also be possible to obtain cannabis legally through so-called cannabis clubs. These regulated associations may have up to 500 members each and may distribute up to 50 g of cannabis per person per month.

Until then, “consumers should not tell the police where they bought their cannabis”, Georg Wurth, director of the German Cannabis Association, told AFP.

‘Disaster’

Initial plans to sell cannabis through licensed shops were abandoned after opposition from the EU. However, a second piece of legislation is on the way to test the sale of the drug in shops in so-called trial areas.

The German government, a coalition led by Chancellor Olaf Scholz’s Social Democrats, argues that legislation will help curb the growing black market for the popular drug.

However, health groups are concerned that its decriminalization could lead to increased use among young people who face the greatest health risks.

Cannabis use among young people can hinder the development of the central nervous system and can give rise to an increased risk for the development of psychosis and schizophrenia, experts have warned.

“In our opinion, the legislation, as it is written, is a disaster,” said Katja Seidel, a therapist at a cannabis addiction center for young people in Berlin.

Karl Lauterbach, the minister of health and himself a medical doctor, also said that cannabis use can be “dangerous”, especially for young users.

The government undertook to launch a major information campaign to outline the risks of use and promote support programmes.

The use of cannabis is still prohibited for those under 18 and may not be used within 100 meters of schools, kindergartens and playgrounds.

‘Responsible’ step

The legislation has also drawn criticism from police ranks, with officers fearing it will be difficult laws to enforce.

“From April 1, our colleagues will find themselves in a conflict situation with citizens, because there is uncertainty on all sides,” warned Alexander Poitz, deputy president of the police union GdP.

Another potential problem is retroactive amnesty granted to cannabis-related offences; it creates a reasonable administrative headache for the legal system.

According to the German Association of Judges, the amnesty may apply to more than 200,000 cases; matters that will need to be reviewed and processed.

The conservative opposition leader Friedrich Merz has already said that he will repeal the legislation “immediately” if his party forms a government after next year’s election.

However, Christian Lindner, finance minister and a member of the liberal FDP, says decriminalization was a “responsible” step that was better than “sending people to the black market”.

The new law “is not going to lead to chaos”, Lindner told the public broadcaster ARD.