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A Little High's OK on German Highways

DW staff (win)January 13, 2005

Cannabis might still be illegal in Germany, but police officers have long ignored the occasional joint smoker. Now, the country's highest court has made the weed even acceptable for car drivers. Sort of, at least.

Just don't overdo itImage: AP

Legally speaking, stoners still face penalties if caught with the drug. But prosecution is usually dropped if the amount of dope found on a person is considered small enough to show that it's not intended for sale but rather personal consumption.

Despite a ruling by Germany's highest court, the federal constitutional court, to introduce a nationwide policy, German states still handle this differently, with negligible amounts ranging from 6 grams (0.2 ounces) to 30 grams.

But car drivers have still faced harsh punishments when caught high on the highway. Anyone testing positive for tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the psychoactive ingredient of cannabis, has lost his or her drivers license so far.

This also happened to one man, who had smoked a joint the night before visiting a police station on an unrelated matter. Police officers noticed his strange behavior and convinced him to give a voluntary urine sample that revealed a THC level of 0.5 nanograms per milliliter (ng/mL).

His license was taken away from him by a lower court, but the man pursued the case all the way to the top. Germany's constitutional judges sided with him, saying that tests have become so good at detecting THC that it's hard to tell when a person has actually had a joint for the last time. The man got his license back and anyone caught with a level of up to 1 ng/mL will be allowed to keep driving in the future.