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Weed is now legal in Germany–But it comes with terms and conditions

Germany's cannabis enthusiasts have been celebrating new legislation that legalizes recreational use of the drug.

Germany will decriminalize cannabis possession and home cultivation on April 1 following the law's successful passage by the Bundesrat, the federal states' legislature comprised of 16 states, on Friday. The bill's opponents could have sought the Bundesrat to postpone it, but they were unable to secure a majority.

Under the law, German citizens over eighteen years of age will be permitted the possession of up to 25 grams of cannabis in public areas, which is more than enough for numerous sturdy joints. The 50-gram legal limit will apply to private residences, where Germans will also be allowed to cultivate on their own up to three marijuana plants. Non-commercial "cannabis clubs" are also allowed to provide up to 500 members starting on July 1st, with a monthly maximum of 50 grams per member. These clubs pose as a largely watered-down substitute for legal shops. Due to EU concerns that this could result in a spike in drug exports, the original plans to allow cannabis to be sold in licensed stores and pharmacies were abandoned.

People staged a "smoke-in" at Berlin's Brandenburg Gate at midnight to celebrate the new regulations, which were put in place following a contentious discussion about the advantages and disadvantages of making the drug more easily accessible since the three-party government led by Chancellor Olaf Scholz proclaimed their advocations for such a bill during the formation of a new coalition last November.

The 1961 UN Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs had acted as the primary impediment to the legalization of cannabis in Germany during the early stages of the discussion, a paper Uruguay and Canada had disregarded in their own efforts to legalize the drug. Similarly, parties to the Schengen Agreement are required to limit the unlawful import, distribution, and export of "narcotic drugs and psychotropic substances, including cannabis." However, with the binding nature of various European laws having come into focus within the last few years, Berlin had increasingly regarded the likes of the convention as the lesser of two evils.

According to the government, decriminalization will safeguard youth by reducing the spread of tainted cannabis and hitting a heavy blow on the black market.

“Now it’s coming out of the taboo zone. This is better for real addiction help, prevention for children and young people, and for combating the black market, for which there will soon be an alternative,” said the German minister of health, Karl Lauterbach. "The fight was worth it."

Nonetheless, the new legislation only legalizes the usage of recreational cannabis that will either be obtained via at-home cultivation by consumers or consumed in so-called "non-commercial cultivation associations," also known as "cannabis social clubs." There will be no specialist shops selling cannabis, no importers, and no distributors. Big businesses will not be able to benefit from this permit directly.

Big pharmaceutical companies; however, will be benefitting indirectly as cannabis for medicinal use is no longer classified as a narcotic, making it greatly easier to prescribe.

"We had hoped for more overall, but there's still a lot of potential in the pharmaceutical market," says Finn Hänsel, founder and CEO of the Sanity Group, one of Europe's leading cannabis companies.

Meanwhile, the businesses still have a limited period of opportunity to engage with recreational cannabis. The state intends to permit "commercial supply chains" in a few chosen towns and districts in the middle term, establishing municipal five-year pilot programs for state-controlled cannabis to be sold.

These pilot projects could generate additional millions through the cash registers of specialty stores if they proceed in major cities such as Berlin and Cologne. In the summer, these pilot projects' specifics will be made public. The government intends to evaluate the new law's effects over the coming years before introducing the sale of cannabis under license.

This plan still remains far-fetched though, which means that Germany is legalizing recreational cannabis usage while simultaneously obstructing the way for easy access to this product. Tourists will also be exempted from the new legislation due to this obtainability factor.

Conservative opponents, on the other hand, claim they will completely repeal the law if they win power the following year, which would diminish all hope for further expansion of the legislation.


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