Germany to Approve Cannabis Bill This Week in Legalization Drive

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(Bloomberg) -- German lawmakers will approve delayed legislation decriminalizing personal use of cannabis this week, paving the way for it to take effect on April 1, according to Health Minister Karl Lauterbach.

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The law, set to pass the lower house of parliament by Friday at the latest, would allow adults to posses as much as 25 grams of cannabis, grow a maximum of three plants for private consumption and cultivate the drug as part of nonprofit cannabis clubs limited to 500 members.

It’s the first step toward a broader legalization of marijuana in Europe’s biggest economy. Plans backed by Chancellor Olaf Scholz’s cabinet having been scaled back and delayed over opposition from some lawmakers in the ruling coalition.

The government’s drive has also drawn strong criticism from Germany’s main opposition conservatives, who argue that decriminalization will harm young people’s health and increase the burden on police. The ruling alliance says the aim is to curb the black market, tackle drug-related crime and protect against contaminated products.

“There will definitely be the required vote, we will carry it through,” Lauterbach said Tuesday in interview with Deutschlandfunk radio. “I believe we are making an important step away from a failed cannabis policy.”

Lauterbach cited studies suggesting the law will effectively remove two-thirds of the illegal market for cannabis, helping to prevent toxic products being sold by dealers.

“The likelihood that the black market for cannabis will significantly shrink is very high,” Lauterbach said, pointing to Canada as an example of a successful marijuana legalization.

Sebastian Hartmann and Sebastian Fiedler, members of Scholz’s Social Democrats, wrote this week to the party’s caucus reiterating their opposition to the law, Tagesspiegel newspaper reported Monday.

“Important goals of a modern drug policy, such as combating organized crime, relieving the burden on law enforcement, police and judicial authorities or improving the protection of minors” will not be achieved, the paper quoted the letter as saying.

Despite some opposition within Scholz’s ruling alliance, it will still likely have enough votes in the Bundestag to push the law through. It doesn’t need the backing of the Bundesrat, or upper house, according to the health ministry.

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