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    Cannabis legalization is threatened with extinction


    The matter actually seemed to have already been settled. At the beginning of December, the coalition said that they had now reached agreement on the final details and that the cannabis legalization law would now be passed in the Bundestag. From April onwards it will be possible to smoke weed legally in Germany – the possession of up to 25 grams of cannabis will be punishable, the cultivation of up to three plants for personal consumption and the establishment of cultivation associations will be possible. The cabinet had already decided this in August 2023.

    But then the vote on the law fell off the agenda again in December. It was a purely cosmetic decision, they said at the time: they didn't want to decide on legalization in the middle of a budget dispute, what would that look like? But after Christmas, everything will be packed up. Most certainly.

    More and more social democrats are against legalization

    This week the Bundestag will meet again for the first time in the new year. And again there is a problem with the passage of the cannabis law. According to the SPD, it is highly unlikely that it will now be on the agenda. There is bitter resistance to the plans of Health Minister Karl Lauterbach (SPD) – from within his own ranks, especially from interior and transport politicians. More and more social democrats are against legalization. “It is absolutely unclear whether this will still be something,” the party says. In plain language: The cannabis law is threatened with extinction.

    The concerns are particularly pronounced among the state interior ministers, but also among Federal Interior Minister Nancy Faeser (SPD) – and in the SPD parliamentary group a majority for the draft law would currently be very uncertain. In Faeser's house it is emphasized that people don't stand in the way, but there are classic security arguments against it. The South German newspaper There is a correspondingly critical internal report, which was prepared by the Federal Criminal Police Office (BKA) on behalf of the Conference of Interior Ministers. And that refutes one of the central arguments for legalization – reducing the burden on the police. “Overall, it can be seen that the state law enforcement and regulatory authorities will have to face additional tasks and expenses in the form of personnel and material costs,” the report says.

    The paper also emphasizes that legalization could result in significantly more work for the police in the area of ​​traffic controls. This increases “the likelihood that road safety will be impaired”. Driving under the influence of cannabis could increase. “In this respect, it seems sensible to at least temporarily intensify control activities by the police service, also to make it clear that driving under the influence of cannabis (and other drugs) is still prohibited.” After all, the goal of relieving the burden on law enforcement authorities originally stated by the traffic light coalition is no longer explicitly mentioned as the goal of cannabis legalization in the current draft law.

    Lauterbach's other two most important projects are also in jeopardy

    The BKA has pointed out that police checks must continue to take place, whether with regard to the maximum amount of 25 grams of cannabis carried or the consumption bans, for example in schools and daycare centers and within a radius of 200 meters from them. All of this entails control requirements, as the consumption of cannabis should remain prohibited in the immediate presence of people who have not yet reached the age of 18, as well as in publicly accessible sports facilities, in pedestrian zones between 7 a.m. and 8 p.m. and in the surrounding area Growing Associations. In addition, consumption in the military area of ​​the Bundeswehr remains prohibited.

    Overall, an estimated annual relief of around 7.9 million euros for the law enforcement authorities is still mentioned on the grounds that the legal permission to possess cannabis with impunity reduces the effort for police and regulatory authorities as well as public prosecutors. The calculation is based on the 180,000 cannabis-related offenses recorded annually to date. However, the reliability of this calculation must clearly be questioned.

    From the perspective of the Greens and Liberals, the new resistance in the SPD is incomprehensible – the smaller coalition partners see cannabis legalization as a prestige success that the traffic light could urgently need. The matter is also embarrassing for Lauterbach, after all, his other two most important projects, the transparency law and the hospital reform, are also on the brink because the states are resisting.

    Crisis talks will therefore take place this week between Lauterbach and his parliamentary group colleagues in order to save the project. The Federal Ministry of Health simply says that they are “always in intensive discussions with the parliamentary groups”. There is hope that the law can be put on the agenda on Wednesday morning at short notice.

    However, the prospects for this are extremely poor – also because the minister himself is only moderately enthusiastic about his draft law. At the beginning of the legislative period, Lauterbach enjoyed the role of a supposed pioneer of a new drug policy. However, because his original ideas were not compatible with EU requirements, he had to make numerous compromises. Recently, Lauterbach warned more and more aggressively about the dangers associated with cannabis consumption. Those around him now say: Failure would be a defeat – but one that Lauterbach could live with personally.

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