German lawmakers have reached an agreement to revise a marijuana legalization bill, relaxing certain provisions that were challenged by cannabis reform supporters and setting the stage for a final vote in the national parliament next week.
Advocates were disappointed when a planned vote in the Bundestag was postponed last week, but there’s renewed optimism that the legislation as agreed upon by the traffic light coalition will advance, with legalization proposed to come into effect next spring.
A Green Party lawmaker, Kirsten Kappert-Gonther, said on Monday that following “intensive negotiations,” the bill is being changed in several key ways that will “make the law even better,” according to a translation.
Ich freue mich sehr über die erreichten Änderungen im parlamentarischen Verfahren:
Reduzierung der Konsumverbote auf 100M;
Erlaubte Menge im Eigenanbau 50 G getrocknetes Cannabis;
Änderung der Fahrerlaubnisverordnung mit angemessenem Grenzwert durch @bmdv bis Frühjahr 2024 2/5
— Kirsten Kappert-Gonther (@KirstenKappert) November 27, 2023
“In the negotiations, we managed to find practical regulations that guarantee the protection of young people and health and make the decriminalization of adult consumers a reality,” she said.
Most of the amendments to the legislation are designed to loosen restrictions that faced opposition from advocates and supporters in the Bundestag.
For example, possessing slightly more cannabis than the allowable amount will not be automatically treated as a criminal offense punishable by jail time. Instead, possession of between 25 and 30 grams will be considered an administrative violation.
Similarly, the possession limit for home grown marijuana will be increased from 25 to 50 grams, with the same administrative violation stipulation applied to possession of between 50 and 60 grams.
The rules for public consumption are also being revised. The bill now says that people cannot publicly use cannabis within eyesight of a school, with a 100-meter minimum distance, as RND and Legal Tribune Online reported. The limit was previously 200 meters.
Lawmakers further agreed to stagger the implementation of the reform, making possession and home cultivation legal for adults beginning in April. Social clubs that could distribute marijuana to members could now start to open in July.
Other revisions departed with the theme of loosening restrictions. Negotiators agreed to adopt a change that would strengthen criminal penalties for underage sales, for instance.
Lawmaker Kristine Lütke, a member of the Bundestag in the Free Democratic Party (FDP), said the new changes “make the law even better and bring relief for consumers.”
Diese Änderungen machen das Gesetz noch besser und bringen Erleichterungen für Konsumentinnen & Konsumenten. Als nächstes steht der Beschluss im #Bundestag an! 💪
— Kristine Lütke MdB (@kristine_lutke) November 27, 2023
Officials are also planning to introduce a complementary second measure down the line 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.
After the Bundestag passes the legalization measure, Kappert-Gonther said legislators will “continue working together on Pillar 2” which concerns the commercial sales pilot program.
After next week’s vote, it is expected to be several months before the bill is taken up in the Bundesrat, a separate legislative body that represents German states. Members of the Bundesrat tried to block the proposed reform in September but ultimately failed.
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 legalization proposal is being spearheaded by Health Minister Karl Lauterbach, who first shared details about the revised legalization plan last April. The following month, he distributed the legislative text to cabinet officials. 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.
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 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.
Government officials from multiple countries, including the U.S., also met in Germany last week 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 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.