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Berlin district loses marijuana legalization bid

German federal authorities have rejected a push for the legal sale of marijuana and hash in a Berlin district, filed by the district mayor. The drugs are easy to purchase even when outlawed, argue local officials.

A federal watchdog blocked the initiative to open cannabis shops in the Berlin quarter of Friedrichshain-Kreuzberg, Mayor Monika Herrmann (photo above) said Monday.

Illegal marijuana sales are commonplace in the Berlin quarter, which is

famous for its clubbing scene

and countercultural events.

The district mayor called the decision by the Federal Institute for Drugs and Medical Devices "regrettable."

Herrmann, who is a member of the German Green Party, said that

her initiative

would curb illegal trade and protect youth, and pointed out that the existing sales ban on marijuana and hash is ineffective.

The mayor's proposal would allow adult residents of the district to legally buy up to 60 grams of cannabis every month. The Dutch-style coffee shops would also provide information and advice to addicts and control the drug's quality.

Refusing 'reality'

The federal agency, however, said the ban was in place to prevent "the fuelling of drug dependency."

The regulator also stressed that legal sale of cannabis would suggest the drug was harmless. "When it comes to that, explanations and informative texts would not be able to help," they said.

Many of the people who buy marijuana illegally are teenagers, tourists and non-residents to whom the new regulations would not apply, the agency added.

At the same time, members of the Green Party expressed their disappointment with the latest decision.

"It is downright terrifying that the Federal Institute believes that explanations and informative text don't contribute to drug prevention," Harald Terpe, a member of the German parliament, said on Monday.

The Green Party members in Friedrichshain-Kreuzberg also stated that the agency was refusing to face reality, pointing out that "anybody who thinks that a ban stops the consumption is simply naive."

Opposition from the top

The sale and purchase of marijuana in Germany is illegal, although carrying a small amount for personal use has little to no legal repercussions. In Berlin, the limit is set at 15 grams of cannabis.

In addition, seriously ill patients can grow and consume cannabis for medical purposes, but only in certain cases.

Many political forces in Germany are calling for regulations on marijuana to be relaxed, including the Social Democrats, the Left Party, and the Pirate Party.

However, German conservatives, who dominate the ruling coalition on the federal level, are strictly against the legalization of cannabis.

Herrmann now has one month to decide whether her district would appeal the decision.

dj/cmk (AFP, dpa)

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