The traffic light actually wants to get cannabis approval through parliament by the turn of the year. An expert hearing makes it clear how controversial the topic remains.
Almost two months before the planned release of cannabis in Germany, statements from experts from the police, judiciary, addiction services and medicine make it clear once again how controversial the plans continue to be. This Monday, experts will speak at a public hearing in Parliament’s Health Committee. Their statements were available in advance.
25 grams, three plants and growing in clubs allowed
The traffic light bill proposes to remove cannabis from the list of prohibited substances in the Narcotics Act. Adults aged 18 and over should be allowed to possess 25 grams. A maximum of three plants should be allowed to be grown privately. In cannabis clubs, club members should be allowed to grow the drug together and distribute it to each other.
Powerful associations are opposing it
Powerful associations such as the German Medical Association, the German Association of Judges, the police union and medical specialist societies continue to oppose the law. The judges’ association expresses “significant concerns” and, like representatives of police unions, expects more work for law enforcement authorities and the judiciary, as the requirements for future cannabis clubs and for the cultivation and distribution of the drug must also be monitored and violations punished. There are also fears that the black market will not get smaller, but larger, as possession and purchase of up to 25 grams of cannabis will go unpunished, regardless of whether it was purchased on the black market or legally.
Doctors expect consumption to increase
Medical associations warn primarily about health risks. The German Medical Association sees “a relevant threat to the mental health and development opportunities of the young generation in Germany”. She expects an increase in cannabis use and related health and social problems. Associations and specialist societies in child and adolescent medicine and child and adolescent psychiatry also warn.
The German Society for Psychiatry and Psychotherapy considers the planned age limit for access to cannabis at 18 to be too low, “since brain development is generally not yet complete by the mid-20s.” Until then, the drug should not be consumed because of, among other things, an increased risk of psychosis, according to the association.
Proponents argue with decriminalization
On the other side are supporters of the project. “Criminalizing the possession of cannabis for personal consumption can no longer be justified,” says the “New Judges Association”, a reform-oriented association of judges and prosecutors. Consumption is widespread despite all efforts to ban it. The German Lawyers’ Association “expressly welcomes” the release of cannabis; it sees this as relieving the burden on criminal law. The Center for Interdisciplinary Addiction Research at the University of Hamburg says that the law primarily recognizes “social realities”. In 2021, around one in ten people aged 18 to 59 consumed cannabis at least once a year.
The expert and criminal law professor Mustafa Temmuz Oğlakcioğlu, invited by the SPD, rejects the judges’ association’s doubts about exonerating the authorities. “The sheer number of recently over 180,000 (!) consumption-related cannabis procedures per year obviously ties up considerable resources,” he writes in his statement.
The line between pro and con is fluid
The line between pro and con is also fluid. The German Society for Addiction Medicine assesses the “approaches to the decriminalization of consumers” in the law as positive. However, the association also warns that the release could significantly increase the number of people with intoxications (poisoning) or intoxication psychoses.
The Federal Chamber of Psychotherapists points out the dangers of drug use under the age of 25 because of the incomplete brain development. However, she describes the age limit of 18 years and the requirement that cannabis clubs should only be allowed to sell less potent cannabis to those under 21 as a “good compromise (…) between an acceptable health risk for the not yet fully mature brain and “To prevent cannabis use from being kept secret or taboo for too long from the average age of around 15 years onwards.”
What’s next? After the expert hearing on Monday, the Bundestag still has to pass the law. According to dpa information, this was previously planned for the penultimate week of the year at the end of November. According to the Federal Ministry of Health, approval in the Federal Council is not necessary. A “Questions and Answers” on its website states that the cannabis law is scheduled to come into force at the beginning of 2024. And further: “From the moment it comes into force, adults can legally smoke a joint in Germany according to the draft law presented.”
It remains to be seen whether the schedule will be adhered to, as the details of the extensive law are still being worked out. At the same time, the Ministry of Health is running an online campaign warning of the health risks of cannabis consumption. Video clips with slogans such as “Legal, but…risky” or “Legal but…last” are aimed primarily at young people.
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