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Germany's Cabinet is set to approve a plan to liberalise rules on cannabis possession and sale

Germany’s Cabinet is set to approve a plan to liberalise rules on cannabis, setting the scene for the European Union’s most populous member to decriminalise possession of limited amounts and allow members of “cannabis clubs” to buy the substance for recreational use.

An employee showcases a growing cannabis or hemp plant in a box at the Cannabis Museum in Berlin, Germany, on Tuesday, 15th August 2023. Germany's Cabinet is poised to endorse a plan to liberalise rules on cannabis, creating a scenario where the European Union's most populous nation will decriminalise possession of restricted amounts and allow members of "cannabis clubs" to purchase the substance for recreational purposes. (AP Photo/Markus Schreiber)

BERLIN -- The Cabinet of Germany is on the verge of endorsing a strategy to liberalise regulations concerning cannabis, creating a scenario where the European Union's most populous nation will decriminalise the possession of restricted quantities and allow members of "cannabis clubs" to procure the substance for recreational use.

The administration's sanction, projected for Wednesday, is being portrayed as the initial phase of a two-part plan and will still necessitate approval from the parliament. Nevertheless, it represents significant progress for a notable reform initiative within Chancellor Olaf Scholz's socially progressive coalition, although it falls significantly short of the government's original ambitions.

Health Minister Karl Lauterbach will unveil the particulars of the finalised legislation on Wednesday. His most recent public proposal envisions legalising the possession of up to 25 grams (almost 1 ounce) of cannabis for recreational purposes and allowing individuals to cultivate up to three plants for personal use.

German citizens aged 18 and above would be eligible to join non-profit "cannabis clubs," each with a maximum of 500 members. These clubs would be permitted to cultivate cannabis for the personal consumption of their members.

Individuals would be authorised to purchase up to 25 grams per day, or up to 50 grams per month—though this figure would be capped at 30 grams for those under 21. Membership in multiple clubs would not be permitted. The costs of these clubs would be funded through membership fees, which would be tiered based on the quantity of cannabis used by the members.

Officials are hopeful that this plan will help counteract the black market, safeguard consumers against adulterated products, and mitigate drug-related crime.

"We are not generating a problem," Lauterbach stated earlier this year. "We are striving to resolve a problem."

The opposition from the centre-right disagrees, asserting that the government is persisting with the legalisation of a risky drug despite European legal hurdles and expert opinions. A group representing German judges contends that this plan is more likely to amplify than alleviate the burden on the judiciary and might even exacerbate the demand for black-market cannabis.

Some proponents of legalisation are also discontent.

"What the health minister is providing us is excessive regulation, an ongoing stigmatisation of cannabis users, and overly stringent regulatory constraints that essentially render it unfeasible for many 'cannabis clubs' to function," remarked Oliver Waack-Jürgensen, who heads the Berlin-based "High Ground" cannabis social club, founded last year. He is also a member of the board of a national association that represents such clubs.

The government has articulated its intention to follow up this new legislation by outlining a subsequent step—conducting five-year trials of regulated commercial supply chains in specific regions, which would then be subjected to scientific evaluation.

This falls far short of the original proposal from last year, which envisioned permitting the sale of cannabis to adults across the entire country through licensed outlets. This proposal was curtailed following discussions with the European Commission.

Lauterbach has indicated that Germany does not seek to emulate the model of neighbouring Netherlands, which combines decriminalisation with minimal market regulation. He has conveyed Germany's aspiration to serve as an exemplar for Europe.

While Dutch authorities tolerate the sale and consumption of small amounts of cannabis at so-called "coffee shops," the production and distribution of substantial quantities necessary to sustain these establishments remain unlawful. Amsterdam, a long-standing destination for tourists interested in cannabis, has been intensifying efforts to control these coffee shops.

In the meantime, the Dutch government has initiated an experiment aimed at "determining whether and how controlled cannabis can be legally supplied to coffee shops and what the resultant effects would be."

Approaches in other parts of Europe exhibit variability. In Switzerland, authorities cleared the path last year for a pilot initiative enabling a few hundred people in Basel to purchase cannabis from pharmacies for recreational use. The Czech government has been developing a plan similar to Germany's, seeking to permit the sale and recreational use of cannabis, though the details are yet to be finalised.

In Denmark's capital, Copenhagen, the proposition to legalise cannabis has been rejected by the parliament. France has no intentions to relax its stringent cannabis rules.

Contributions to this report were made by Associated Press writers Pietro De Cristofaro in Berlin, Mike Corder in The Hague, Karel Janicek in Prague, Jan M. Olsen in Copenhagen, and Sylvie Corbet in Paris. Originally published here:

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