Germany took a major step toward marijuana reform on Wednesday when the country’s cabinet approved a bill that will liberalize its cannabis laws.
The approval comes a month after the country’s ministry of health released the draft bill of the new marijuana regulations.
After Wednesday, the measure still must be approved by the German parliament before it becomes law, but it marks a significant step.
As the Associated Press put it, the approval by the cabinet sets the stage “for the European Union’s most populous member to decriminalize possession of limited amounts and allow members of ‘cannabis clubs’ to buy the substance for recreational purposes.”
“The legislation is billed as the first step in a two-part plan and still needs approval by parliament. But the government’s approval is a stride forward for a prominent reform project of Chancellor Olaf Scholz’s socially liberal coalition, though significantly short of its original ambitions,” the Associated Press reported on Wednesday. “The bill, which the government hopes will take effect at the end of this year, foresees legalizing possession of up to 25 grams (nearly 1 ounce) of cannabis for recreational purposes and allowing individuals to grow up to three plants on their own.”
According to the AP, German residents “who are 18 and older would be allowed to join nonprofit ‘cannabis clubs’ with a maximum 500 members each,” while the “clubs would be allowed to grow cannabis for members’ personal consumption.”
The reform effort has been months in the making, with German Health Minister Karl Lauterbach spearheading the charge.
“This is an important law that will represent a long-term change in drug policy,” Lauterbach said on Wednesday, as quoted by The New York Times.
In April, Lauterbach and other German officials unveiled a decidedly more scaled-back cannabis reform proposal than what was originally envisioned.
The original proposal, announced by Lauterbach last fall, “foresaw allowing the sale of cannabis to adults across the country at licensed outlets,” the Associated Press reported.
The revisions to the cannabis proposal came after German officials met with the European Union. EU laws are always bound to be a potential impediment to the reform effort.
German Agriculture Minister Cem Özdemir said that European law “sets us limits we must respect, but that I will also say we are pushing,” as quoted by the Associated Press.
Still, the reform is significant for what is Europe’s largest economy.
The New York Times has more background on how the weaker measure arrived before the cabinet on Wednesday, and all the obstacles it overcame along the way:
“The socially liberal coalition announced its intent to legalize recreational marijuana when it came into power in 2021, quickly finding consensus on an issue opposed for years by the government of Chancellor Angela Merkel. But implementation has proved difficult. A version of the plan introduced last year by Mr. Lauterbach would have allowed the distribution of marijuana through commercial stores. That idea was scuttled after meeting resistance from the European Union’s executive arm, the European Commission. Instead, the legislation approved on Wednesday allows distribution through the creation of licensed private cultivation associations with no more than 500 members. Members would be allowed to buy up to 25 grams — slightly less than an ounce — on any one day, but with a limit of 50 grams in a month. The German government also plans to launch a series of regional pilot programs that would allow the sale of cannabis through a small number of licensed specialty shops, in an attempt to gather more information about the effects of allowing individuals to purchase marijuana commercially.”