BERLIN, Oct 26 (Reuters) – Germany laid out plans to legalize marijuana on Wednesday, a move promised by the government of Chancellor Olaf Scholz that would make it the first in Europe to legalize marijuana one of the countries.
Health Minister Karl Lauterbach has presented a foundational document on planned legislation to regulate adults’ controlled distribution and consumption of marijuana for recreational purposes.
The acquisition and possession of up to 20 to 30 grams of recreational marijuana for personal consumption will also be legalized.
The coalition government struck a deal last year to introduce legislation during its four-year term to allow controlled distribution of cannabis in licensed stores.
Lauterbach did not give a timetable for the plan, which would make Germany the second EU country after Malta to legalize marijuana.
Many European countries, including Germany, have legalized cannabis for limited medicinal purposes. The use of cannabis for medical purposes has been legal in Germany since 2017. Others have legalized it for general use, but not legalized it.
According to the document, private practice will be allowed to a limited extent. Ongoing investigations and criminal proceedings related to cases that are no longer illegal will be terminated.
The government also plans to introduce a special excise tax, as well as education and prevention efforts related to cannabis.
A survey last year found that legalizing marijuana could bring Germany about 4.7 billion euros ($4.7 billion) in annual tax and cost savings and create 27,000 new jobs.
About 4 million people in Germany consumed marijuana last year, 25 percent of whom were between the ages of 18 and 24, Lauterbach said, adding that legalization would crowd out the black market.
The minister added that Germany will submit the document to the European Commission for a pre-assessment and that a law will be drafted only after the commission has approved it.
The decision has already sparked various reactions in Europe’s largest economy.
The German Pharmacists’ Association has warned about the health risks of legalizing marijuana, saying it would throw pharmacies into medical conflict.
Pharmacists are healthcare professionals, so “the possible competitive situation with purely commercial suppliers has been particularly criticized,” Thomas Preis, head of the North Rhine Pharmacists Association, told the Rheinische Post.
The legalization plan has not been welcomed by all federal states. For example, the Bavarian health minister has warned that Germany should not become a European destination for drug tourism.
The Augsburger Allgemeine newspaper quoted Bavarian Health Minister Klaus Holleček as saying: “Consumption carries significant and sometimes irreversible health and social risks – triviality of any kind is completely irresponsible. .”
But Germany’s Green Party said decades of banning cannabis would only exacerbate the risks, adding that legal trade would better protect youth and health. “Because the restrictions on the legal market are too restrictive, it will only facilitate the entry of particularly strong cannabis into the black market,” lawmaker Kirsten Kappert-Gonther said on Wednesday.
Lars Mueller, chief executive of German cannabis company SynBiotic, said Wednesday’s move was “almost like winning the lottery” for his company.
“When the time comes, we’ll be able to offer a franchise-like model for cannabis stores in addition to our own stores,” Mueller said.
(1 USD = 0.9995 EUR)
Reporting by Riham Alkousaa, Editing by Rachel More and Miranda Murray
Our Standard: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.