The planned cannabis legalization in Germany may come gradually and could be less comprehensive than agreed in the coalition agreement of the Ampel government. According to media reports, at least in the SPD and in the SPD-led Federal Ministry of Health, there are considerations to initially make the project more cautious due to legal concerns.

Health Minister Karl Lauterbach (SPD) announced new proposals for the planned legalization on Friday, without giving any details. The law is on the right track and revised proposals will be presented “soon”, he said in Berlin.

A few weeks ago, Lauterbach had already said that the original proposals for legalization (key points) that he had presented in the fall had “in the meantime been changed somewhat”. The minister had actually aimed for a concrete draft law for the project by the end of March. On Friday, the Federal Ministry of Health said that no date could be given. It is a highly complex process.

In their coalition agreement, the SPD, Greens and FDP had agreed: “We are introducing the controlled sale of cannabis to adults for recreational purposes in licensed shops.” In his key points, Lauterbach had proposed that the drug and the active ingredient tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) should no longer be legally classified as narcotics in the future. The acquisition and possession of up to 30 grams of “pleasure cannabis” should go unpunished, private cultivation allowed to a limited extent and sale to adults in “licensed specialist shops” and possibly also pharmacies should be made possible.

International law creates hurdles

From the outset, however, it was feared that the project could fail or at least be slowed down by international law. For example, the states of the Schengen area have committed themselves in the “Schengen Implementation Agreement” to “prohibiting the illegal export of narcotics of all kinds, including cannabis products, as well as the sale, procurement and delivery of these funds by administrative and criminal means”.

Lauterbach said in mid-March that he had received very good feedback on the project from the EU Commission. According to a “Spiegel” report, the SPD leadership is now assuming that comprehensive legalization “obviously cannot be implemented in the short term for reasons of European law”. The “Spiegel” refers to a decision of the party executive. According to the report, it goes on to say that Lauterbach and the federal government are therefore supported “in practicable steps towards legalization”. Model projects are mentioned, for example.

According to information from “Zeit Online”, Lauterbach’s revised proposals for the law provide for the sale of cannabis to be initially tested for a limited period of four years in some model regions in specially designated shops and to be accompanied scientifically. If successful, this regional legalization of cannabis could then be extended and consolidated throughout Germany in the coming election period, according to the report. In addition, self-cultivation and the establishment of so-called cannabis clubs could be allowed – associations in which people get together to grow cannabis. According to “Spiegel”, the SPD leadership is also in favor of this.

Not more, but more controlled

Lauterbach, who was originally against cannabis legalization himself, but now has to implement it as the responsible minister in the traffic light, did not comment on the subject in more detail on Friday at the sidelines of a conference with the East German Prime Ministers. He merely reiterated that the aim of the reform is not to expand cannabis use in Germany, but to control the use that is already there and to fight the black market and crime. It’s about better child and youth protection. “We are working on that and we will present a comprehensive proposal for it.”

From the point of view of the Union, the previously known plans are the opposite of youth protection. “The planned legalization of cannabis suggests a new form of freedom, of harmlessness that is dangerous,” said the deputy leader of the Union faction, Andrea Lindholz (CSU). She criticized: “Nobody talks about the extent to which cannabis use has already taken on and what health damage prolonged cannabis use can cause, especially among young people.” Germany threatens to become “the number one drug transshipment center in Europe”.