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Germans and drugs: Marijuana use grows among teenagers

A "cannabis lobby" is pushing for marijuana to be legalized in Germany, according to a German lawmaker who presented the annual report on drugs. The conservative Marlene Mortler urged more help for children of addicts.

Mortler slammed several German parliamentary factions for their efforts to legalize cannabis, including the Left party, the Greens, and some parts of the center-left Social Democratic Party. Although the SPD is part of the ruling coalition, it is also the main rival of the Christian Democratic Union, which Chancellor Angela Merkel leads and Mortler belongs to. 

Politicians who want to decriminalize marijuana are undermining the parents, teachers and students who reject the drug, she said while presenting the annual report on drugs on Friday.

Mortler also warned that a powerful "cannabis lobby" was pushing for the legalization.

"This is about big business," she said, adding that the lobbyists were also working on behalf of US hedge funds and their investors, eager to sell marijuana in Germany, which they see as a "highly interesting market."

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More active chemicals in marijuana

The data in the report shows a clear drop in consumption of tobacco and alcohol among German youth. According to Mortler, tobacco consumption is currently only one-third of what it was 15 years ago, and young people drink only half as much alcohol. At the same time, cannabis is becoming more popular. The report estimates that there are some 3.1 million adult marijuana users in Germany.

The authorities say 7 percent of Germans between 12 and 17 years of age used marijuana at least once during 2015. The percentage reaches 15 percent for the 18-25 age group.

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"This is also problematic because the amount of active ingredients is now five times higher than 30 years ago," Mortler said.

According to the lawmaker, smoking marijuana at an early age increases the risk mental issues later in life. The effects can include a reduced attention span, which can challenge students. The report also names other possible effects of marijuana consumption, such as developing cognitive deficiencies, anxiety, and heart and lung damage.

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Mortler urged lawmakers to develop a national policy to fight the spread of cannabis, similar to prevention programs already in place against alcohol and tobacco addiction.

Gambling addiction affects children

The representative also called on the government to do more for children of addicts, including alcoholics. According to the report, some 2.65 million children and teenagers live with at least one parent who is an addict. Around 60,000 children have parents addicted to drugs, and up to 150,000 have parents addicted to gambling.

"Policy measures must not end with addicts alone," Mortler said. Around one-third of children of addicts become addicts themselves, and another third develop mental problems.

Read more: Cannabis cake poisons group in north Germany

The number of drug-related deaths has been rising for at least four years. The 2016 numbers show that 1,333 people died because they used heroin, cocaine or crack, which marks a 9-percent rise from the year before.

dj/sms (KNA, dpa, AFP)

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