BERLIN, Oct 26 (Reuters) – Germany laid out plans to legalize marijuana on Wednesday, a move Chancellor Olaf Schultz’s government said would make Germany one of the first countries in Europe to do so.
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 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.
Many countries in the region have legalized cannabis for limited medicinal purposes, including Germany since 2017. Other countries have legalized its 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 will also introduce a special excise tax and develop cannabis-related education and abuse prevention programs.
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 approves the plan.
“If the European Commission says no to Germany’s current approach, our government should look for alternative solutions. More than just saying: Well, we’ve done our best,” said Niklas, CEO of Bloomwell Group, one of Germany’s largest cannabis companies. Kouparanis said.
If the EU rejects legalization, Berlin should have a Plan B, Kouparanis said, adding that cannabis imports should be allowed because domestic cultivation would not be able to meet demand in the short term.
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.
But Germany’s Green Party says decades of banning marijuana will only exacerbate the risks.
“Because conditions that are too restrictive for the legal market will only contribute to a particularly strong black market for marijuana,” lawmaker Kirsten Kappert-Gonther said 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.
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Reporting by Riham Alkousaa, Editing by Miranda Murray and Bernadette Baum
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