Germany’s plan to legalize recreational cannabis use by April 2024 has met with opposition from some members of the ruling Social Democratic Party (SPD), who have voiced their concerns over the impact of the law on public health and safety. The draft bill, which was approved by the cabinet in August 2023, would allow adults to possess up to 25 grams of cannabis and grow up to three plants for personal use. It would also create a regulated market for cannabis sales in selected regions as part of a five-year trial. However, the bill still needs to pass the parliament and the European Commission before it can become law.
SPD Divided over Cannabis Legalization
The SPD, which formed a coalition government with the Greens and the Free Democrats (FDP) after the 2023 federal election, has pledged to legalize cannabis as part of its agenda for social justice and modernization. However, not all SPD members are on board with the proposal, and some have publicly expressed their doubts and criticisms.
One of the most vocal opponents of the bill is Thomas Strobl, the SPD’s deputy leader and interior minister of Baden-Württemberg, a state in southwestern Germany. Strobl has argued that legalizing cannabis would send the wrong signal to young people and increase the risk of addiction and mental health problems. He has also warned that the law would create a legal gray zone and pose challenges for law enforcement and drug prevention. Strobl has called for a referendum on the issue, saying that the people should have the final say.
Another SPD member who has spoken out against the bill is Karl-Josef Laumann, the health minister of North Rhine-Westphalia, the most populous state in Germany. Laumann has said that he is not convinced by the arguments for legalization, and that he fears that the law would lead to more consumption and more health problems. He has also questioned the feasibility of the regional trials, saying that they would create a patchwork of different regulations and legal uncertainties.
Supporters of the Bill Defend Its Benefits
Despite the internal opposition, the SPD’s leadership and other supporters of the bill have defended its benefits and rationale. They have argued that the current prohibition of cannabis has failed to reduce consumption and has instead fueled the black market and criminality. They have also claimed that the law would protect consumers from harmful substances and offer them more quality control and information. Moreover, they have stressed that the law would respect the autonomy and freedom of choice of adults, and that it would include measures to prevent underage use and abuse.
One of the main advocates of the bill is Karl Lauterbach, the SPD’s health minister and vice chancellor. Lauterbach has said that the law would be a “turning point” in Germany’s drug policy, and that it would serve the public interest and the common good. He has also said that the law would be based on scientific evidence and international experience, and that it would be evaluated and adjusted as needed. Lauterbach has dismissed the idea of a referendum, saying that the parliament has the legitimacy and the responsibility to decide on the matter.
Another supporter of the bill is Cem Özdemir, the SPD’s agriculture minister and former leader of the Greens. Özdemir has said that the law would be a “significant step” toward a progressive and reality-based drug policy, and that it would reflect the changing attitudes and preferences of the society. He has also said that the law would decriminalize the millions of people who use cannabis for private purposes, and that it would generate tax revenue and create jobs.
Germany’s Cannabis Legalization Plan in a European Context
Germany is not the only European country that is considering or experimenting with cannabis legalization. Several other countries, such as Belgium, Switzerland, the Netherlands, and the Czech Republic, are also exploring different models and approaches to regulate the recreational use of the drug. However, Germany’s plan is the most ambitious and comprehensive one so far, and it could have a significant impact on the rest of the continent.
Germany is the largest and most influential country in the European Union, and its decisions and actions often set the tone and the direction for the rest of the bloc. If Germany succeeds in legalizing cannabis, it could inspire and encourage other countries to follow suit or to adopt similar reforms. On the other hand, if Germany faces legal or practical obstacles or negative consequences, it could deter or delay other countries from pursuing legalization.
In any case, Germany’s cannabis legalization plan will likely face scrutiny and challenges from the European Commission, the executive branch of the EU, which has the authority to approve or reject national legislation that affects the internal market or the public health of the bloc. The Commission has not yet commented on Germany’s draft bill, but it has previously expressed its reservations and concerns about cannabis legalization in other countries, such as Luxembourg and Malta. The Commission has also stated that it does not support the legalization of cannabis for recreational purposes at the EU level, and that it prefers a common and coordinated approach to drug policy.
Germany’s plan to legalize recreational cannabis use by April 2024 is a bold and controversial move that has divided the ruling SPD and sparked a heated debate in the country and beyond. The draft bill, which would allow adults to possess and grow cannabis for personal use and create a regulated market for cannabis sales in selected regions, still needs to overcome several hurdles before it can become law. The bill’s supporters argue that it would bring social justice, consumer protection, and economic benefits, while its opponents warn that it would harm public health, safety, and order. The bill’s fate and outcome will likely have implications for the future of cannabis legalization in Europe.