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Germany Moves Closer to Cannabis Decriminalization as Parliament Backs Reform

German lawmakers have given approval to a government initiative aimed at relaxing regulations on cannabis, paving the way for the potential decriminalization of limited amounts of marijuana and permitting individuals to purchase it for recreational use through “cannabis clubs.”

The Bundestag, the lower house of Parliament, endorsed the legislation, a significant reform spearheaded by Chancellor Olaf Scholz’s socially liberal governing coalition, with 407 votes in favor, 226 against, and four abstentions. Health Minister Karl Lauterbach emphasized the government’s goal of combating the black market and providing better protection for young people. He argued that existing laws in the European Union’s most populous nation have proven ineffective, leading to increased consumption and issues with contaminated or overly concentrated cannabis.

Under the proposed bill, adults would be allowed to possess up to 25 grams (nearly 1 ounce) of marijuana for recreational purposes, and they could cultivate up to three plants for personal use, effective April 1. From July 1, German residents aged 18 and above could join nonprofit “cannabis clubs” with a maximum of 500 members each, enabling the cultivation of cannabis for personal consumption.

Individuals would be permitted to purchase up to 25 grams per day or a maximum of 50 grams per month, with a limit of 30 grams for those under 21. The government plans to ban advertising or sponsoring cannabis, and the clubs and consumption would be prohibited in close proximity to schools, playgrounds, and sports facilities. An evaluation of the legislation’s impact on the protection of children and youths is scheduled within 18 months of the legislation taking effect.

The main center-right opposition bloc vehemently opposes the change, arguing that it may contribute to increased drug consumption among children and young people. Health Minister Lauterbach countered this claim, stating that the new legislation includes stringent penalties for dealers caught selling to minors.

The legislation, although scaled back from the government’s initial ambitions, still represents a significant step toward cannabis liberalization in Germany. While the parliament’s upper house could potentially delay the legislation, it does not formally require the chamber’s approval. Bavaria’s conservative state government has expressed intentions to explore legal action against the liberalization plan.

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