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Green, CDU politicians launch cannabis plan

May 13, 2015

A pair of German politicians - one conservative, one green - is promoting legalizing marijuana. One of the arguments is the potential for a tax windfall.

An archive image showing a close-up of someone smoking a marijuana cigarette
Image: picture-alliance/dpa/B. Roessler

In a policy proposal for parliament which was obtained by German public broadcaster ARD on Wednesday, Christian Democrat Joachim Pfeiffer and Green party member Dieter Janecek put forward their plan for the liberalization of cannabis products, questioning whether making criminals out of people for posession and purchase of the drug for recreational purposes made sense.

"Each year we spend between one and two billion euros on prosecuting [cannabis] consumers, although it's really the criminal sector which we should be focusing our efforts on," the Bundestag members said.

"More often, we arrest the witnesses than the offenders, so from that we need to realize that prevention through deterrence doesn't really work in practice," they added.

Janecek and Pfeiffer estimated a state-regulated market for cannabis would bring in up to two billion euros in tax revenue.

Unlikely allies

While the Green party has long advocated decriminalizing marijuana, having a member of the governing union of the conservative Christian Democrat (CDU) and its Bavarian sister party the Christian Social Union (CSU) on board - even just one at this stage - adds a new dimension to the debate. Pfeiffer is also CDU/CSU's economic policy spokesman. This particular early-stage form of written policy proposal for the Bundestag parliament, known in German as a "Stellungnahme," requires support from members of at least two political parties to be submitted.

ARD reports that an increasing number of economists support the position put forward by the two politicians. Justus Haucap from the University of Düsseldorf suggested a wide-ranging liberalization of the drug would be needed to really get a grip on the black market. Legalizing only a few variations would merely drive cannabis consumers to illegal dealers, he said. Haucap also warned authorities against setting the price too high, saying this would only encourage users to grow their own or go to an unlicensed dealer.

While it's unclear how much traction Pfeffer and Janeck's suggestion will gain, both politicians said they were closely watching drug policy reforms happening overseas, especially the United States. German Greens head Cem Özdemir, who himself showed support for a change in cannabis laws this year, wished the pair success with their initiative.

Currently the posession, cultivation and sale of marijuana is outlawed in Germany. However most federal states won't prosecute people caught with up to six grams. Germany has been making small steps towards allowing more people legal access to the drug for medical reasons.

se/msh (dpa, AFP)