Cannabis in Germany: What is now allowed and what is not?


The Bundestag has decided to grant a discretionary license to cannabis for private use. The opposition and many experts are against it. What is now allowed and what remains forbidden?

For supporters it is a long-awaited end to criminalization, for opponents it means increasing the danger that young people will now turn to harder drugs even more than before: With the votes of the governing coalition of the SPD, the Greens and the liberal FDP, the Bundestag agreed to give partial permission for cannabis consumption in Germany. MPs from the Left also voted "for". This specifically means: From April 1, adults in Germany will be allowed to carry 25 grams of cannabis. This amount should be enough for about 50 to 100 cannabis cigarettes (joints). Hashish fans can now grow three cannabis plants and store up to 50 grams of dried cannabis within their own four walls.

Consumers, as well as many politicians and health experts, have long called for allowing the use of cannabis in small quantities and thus ending the trade by dealers. In the 2021 coalition agreement, the three government parties reached an agreement in principle on this and wrote in the list of plans for the government:

"We are introducing a controlled supply of cannabis to adults in licensed shops for recreational use."

Private clubs instead of public businesses

However, the law of Federal Health Minister Karl Lauterbach now no longer mentions such licensed shops. At least not for now. The government wants above all to allow and regulate private consumption, as well as to relieve the police and the judiciary. In addition, from July 1, private clubs with up to 500 members will be allowed to grow cannabis together and distribute the harvest to their members. For now, there will be no commercial stores, such as in some states in the United States - although this was considered at the beginning. If in the future consumers want to consume their cannabis without being penalized, then they will not be allowed to do so near schools, kindergartens, playgrounds and public sports facilities. And that will not be allowed in pedestrian zones in the period from 7 a.m. to 20 p.m. The possibility of selling cannabis in special shops and allowing consumption in such shops has been postponed for the time being.

Two irreconcilable attitudes

The discussion about the possible permission to consume cannabis has always been characterized by two irreconcilable positions: doctors and other health experts warned against trivializing cannabis. For example, neurologist Euphrosyne Guzoulis-Mayfrank, future president of the German Society for Psychiatry and Psychotherapy (DGPPN), says:

"Age is the key point in this discussion. I am afraid that with the planned law against one evil we will fight another evil."

The brain of young people continues to develop continuously until the age of 25, and cannabis can cause serious damage, especially of a psychological nature, warns the neurologist. And other critics warn of the danger of moving from the relatively harmless drug cannabis to stronger substances.

Supporters, such as Bundestag MP János Damen of the Green Party, who is himself a doctor, say otherwise. Damen told DW: "The increased figures for cannabis consumption show that the prohibition policy of recent years is not leading to fewer people consuming cannabis - on the contrary, consumption, especially among young people, continues to increase." And it adds: "Therefore, the purpose of the Cannabis Act is to make the consumption of and access to cannabis safer for informed adults by preventing the distribution of contaminated substances in cannabis and limiting the black market."

Consumption has really increased lately, especially among people between the ages of 18 and 25. According to the figures of the "Union Center for Health Education", in 2021 half of young people have already had experience with cannabis consumption. The last time the number was this high was more than 50 years ago. Despite the ban.

Amnesty creates problems for the judiciary

And justice experts warn against further regulations surrounding cannabis licensing. Namely, the government wants to introduce amnesty for cases that have been the subject of criminal prosecution, and in the future will no longer be so. The head of the German Association of Judges, Sven Reben, told the media network RND:

"Federal Judiciary Expects Up to 100.000 Deeds to Be Rechecked."

Hardly achievable, says Reben. So, the topic of cannabis in Germany remains relevant even after the first step towards free consumption has been made.

Source: Deutsche Welle/ Author: Jens Thurau

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