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German 'cannabis clubs' on high as legalisation looms

German 'cannabis clubs' on high as legalisation looms.

Hanover's cannabis club has received 800 applications to join as Germany moves towards cannabis legalisation.

Hanover's cannabis club started as a fringe outfit of nine members campaigning for the right to legally light up joints. Now the group, and others like it, are flourishing and becoming more mainstream as Germany prepares to legalise cannabis.

This month, the government approved a draft law to legalise the purchase and possession of cannabis for recreational use, despite facing fierce criticism.

At the heart of the plans, which must still pass through parliament, are the so-called "cannabis social clubs".

Under the proposals, each group can have up to 500 members and will be allowed to cultivate cannabis for personal use, with a limit of up to three plants per person, closely monitored by the authorities.

Each club member will be permitted to purchase up to 25 grams (0.9 ounces) of cannabis a day from the club, up to a maximum of 50 grams a month.

For those aged 18 to 21, the allowed amount is lower, with a maximum of 30 grams a month.

While members will still not be allowed to consume cannabis together at their meetings, the anticipated changes have led to a sharp increase in the number of cannabis clubs in Germany, with around 100 now in existence.

Applications to join the Hanover group — which initially formed in 2016 to advocate for cannabis at Christmas markets and festivals — have surged.

"Over the past few months, we have been contacted by nearly 800 people," said founder Heinrich Wieker, a former electrical engineer aged 58.

Currently, the group has accepted only 57 of these applicants.

"I want to get to know them. I have to integrate them into the team and assign them tasks," he told AFP, prior to commencing one of the group's twice-weekly meetings in a co-working space.

Growing debate -

Seven people participated in the meeting, but there was no cannabis smoke permeating the room. Instead, the scene resembled a typical workplace, equipped with desks, computers, and a whiteboard.

Cultivation and preventing addiction were the main topics on the agenda.

"On Sunday, we visited a location in Hanover where we could potentially cultivate cannabis," shared Oliver W., a 48-year-old retired electrician who chose not to disclose his full name.

One option involves cultivating the plants in specialized boxes using artificial lighting, as suggested by Wieker.

Another alternative is "to establish a large plantation outdoors, which I personally favor as it is a more sustainable method," added the founder, sporting orange sandals.

In addition to the club, Wieker, who has a background in pharmaceuticals, chemicals, and the automotive industry, also launched his own business producing machinery for cannabis harvesting.

At present, club membership costs 20 euros ($22), along with a monthly fee of five euros.

However, the cost, primarily covering rental expenses, might rise if it incorporates the supply of the drug.

Wieker believes the optimal solution is to sell cannabis to members by the gram, with heavier users paying more than those who consume it infrequently.

He suggests that the price should range from a highly competitive five to 15 euros per gram to account for production costs.

Contentious -

The push to legalise cannabis in Europe's most populous country, a flagship project of Chancellor Olaf Scholz's center-left-led coalition, has encountered controversy.

The proposals have faced strong opposition from conservative politicians, medical professionals, and law enforcement officials.

Nevertheless, Health Minister Karl Lauterbach has argued that this approach would combat the black market and drug-related crime, reduce the strain on law enforcement, and enable safer consumption.

Safeguards have been integrated into the draft.

Cannabis use is prohibited for those under 18, and each club is required to designate a member responsible for addressing addiction issues.

Within Wieker's club, a subgroup has been formed, composed of members who were formerly addicted to other substances, including alcohol and heroin. This subgroup is tasked with monitoring and addressing such problems.

"We are closely monitoring any problematic consumption," he stated, noting that the club is also in contact with an association that supports individuals struggling with drug addiction. Originally published here:

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