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Germans stage rally demanding legalization of cannabis

August 12, 2023

Chancellor Olaf Scholz's cabinet is due this week to discuss a draft bill that would allow the limited consumption of hashish and marijuana. The plans have been widely criticized as impossible to police.

Protesters hold up signs calling for the legalization of cannabis, in Berlin, Germany, on August 12, 2023
The Hanfparade (Hemp Parade) has been held annually since 1997Image: Annette Riedl/dpa/picture alliance

Hundreds of people joined the annual cannabis legalization protest in Germany's capital Berlin on Saturday, days before the cabinet is due to discuss a draft law that will overturn a ban on the drug.

Police said between 500-600 people took part in the Hanfparade (Hemp Parade). The numbers were, however, about a third of last year's 1,500 participants.

The parade started with a rally at the city's Rotes Rathaus (Red town hall) and the protest route included the Unter den Linden boulevard, the government district and Alexanderplatz.

"Hemp is great for peace and climate," was the motto of this year's demonstration.

The Hemp Parade has been held annually since 1997. The purpose is to call on the government to liberalize laws on soft drugs such as marijuana and hashish, which are derived from the cannabis plant.

Parade organizers also advocate for easier access to medical cannabis and the widespread use of hemp, which is the same plant species as cannabis.

Germany set to ease drug laws

The government is planning to legalize cannabis, potentially allowing adults to possess up to 25 grams of cannabis and grow a maximum of three plants for personal use. 

Under aproposed law, the drug could be cultivated and sold by so-called cannabis clubs, subject to strict rules, including in neutral packaging and a maximum of 50 grams per customer per month.

The cabinet is due to discuss the bill in the coming week, Health Minister Karl Lauterbach was cited by DPA news agency as saying.

Pro-cannabis advocates within the coalition government are hoping to legalize the drugs this year.

The Health Ministry thinks the measure could save the country's police, legal system and prisons more than €1 billion ($1.11 billion) in costs per year.

However, the proposed law faces many hurdles, including from the German Judges' Association (DRB), which believes that it will be cumbersome to uphold.

"This very small-scale law would necessitate a high level of control, which would lead to numerous new disputes and to many proceedings before the courts," DRB federal director Sven Rebehn told DPA on Saturday.

DRB says the proposed law will also have little impact on the black market for drugs. 

Germany's police criticizes law

Earlier this month, the deputy head of the German police union (GdP) said the new law would place a huge burden on the police.

GdP deputy federal chairman Alexander Poitz told the Redaktionsnetzwerk Deutschland (RND) network that the draft bill lacked precision and foresight.

"At no point in the draft paper does it become clear how the expected increased technical and personnel effort of the police and other authorities are to be managed," Poitz said.

The planned law would allow people to smoke marijuana in public, but not within 200 meters of schools, day-care centers, playgrounds or sports fields.

"I hope that the Federal Ministry of Health doesn't think our colleagues would measure the required 200-meter distance between a consumer and a day-care center with a tape measure."

The Free Democratic Party (FDP), the smallest in Chancellor Olaf Scholz's coalition, has also criticized the plans.

"In its current form, it would create a real bureaucratic monster that can hardly be controlled," Kristine Lütke, the FDP's addiction and drug policy spokesperson told the Rheinische Post newspaper last month.

"The FDP parliamentary group firmly rejects an upper limit for possession. After all, no one controls how many bottles of wine someone stores in the cellar," she said.

Instead, she called for "proportionate and accurate regulations that provide real protection for young people and at the same time do not lead to an additional burden on the police and the judiciary."

The draft is likely to change as the lower house of the German parliament, or Bundestag, debates it.

With material from DPA news agency.

Edited by Jenipher Camino Gonzalez

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