Green Party Wants to Legalize the Green | Current Affairs | DW | 06.07.2002
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Current Affairs

Green Party Wants to Legalize the Green

Germany’s Green Party is making the legalization of marijuana part of their campaign platform this year. But the issue isn't finding much sympathy among voters and Germany's political establishment.

About 10 million Germans say they've tried marijuana at least once

About 10 million Germans say they've tried marijuana at least once

The junior partner in Gerhard Schröder’s governing coalition announced on Friday that it would fight to adopt the liberal drug laws that have drawn thousands of marijuana and hashish users to neighboring Holland.

Green Party Chair Claudia Roth said at a Berlin press conference that use of the drug should be no made more criminal than the consumption of alcohol.

"It can’t be possible that the possession of cannabis is looked at differently than a case of beer in the car trunk," Roth said. "Every year, there are thousands of deaths related to alcohol, but none related to cannabis consumption."

The argument echoes similar statements made by legalization advocates across the globe. Holland has the most liberal policy of all so far, allowing the consumption and purchase of small amounts of cannabis at cafes across the country.

A more liberal Europe

The Dutch approach has begun gaining popularity across Europe. Portugal removed criminal penalties for the use of small amounts of all formally illegal drugs. And possession of less than 10 daily doses of marijuana has been fully decriminalized.

Late last year the Swiss States Council (Ständerat) voted to legalize cannabis consumption. The lower house of the Swiss Parliament still needs to ratify the proposal, but in the meantime, many of the country's 26 states have effectively decriminalized pot.

If adopted, the German Green proposal would set up Holland-style coffee shops in which adults over 18 could buy and consume up to five grams of cannabis, says Green legal expert Volker Beck.

Not in Germany

The Green’s approach will most likely have a tough time winning people over in Germany.

Just a few months ago, the country’s drug czar, Marion Casper-Merk, issued a statement concerning increased drug consumption among the country's youth. The number of drug-related deaths in 2001 hit its highest level in nearly a decade, with 2,030 people dying from drug-related causes.

According to studies conducted by Germany’s Health Ministry, 26 percent of all 12 to 15-year olds had experimented with marijuana in the year 2000. During that same year, 1.2 million men and 450,000 women were registered as long-term marijuana users.

Alarmed by these statistics, Casper-Merk said she is developing a comprehensive new strategy to fight drug abuse that will focus more on prevention. She categorically opposed the legalization of any type of drugs.

Recent studies show that Germans are far less in favor of decriminalizing marijuana than their European neighbors in Holland, Switzerland and England. A survey conducted by the EMNID Research Institute for the Federal Drug Network indicates that 62 percent of Germans are opposed to changing the current drug law to allow legal use of marijuana. Approximately 70 percent of the population believes that marijuana is an "introductory drug" that leads to the use of harder drugs like heroin.

Struggling party

But the public opposition won't stop the Greens in their campaign to legalize the green stuff. To the contrary, it might actually help increase the party’s name recognition among voters.

The party has been struggling in the polls following a four-year government reign that has seen them lose a portion of their supporters. The six percent the party is currently polling among voters is dangerously close to the five percent mark, below which a party is barred from participating in parliament.

To attract attention to their party and gain support for the Green’s position on the issue, the party's youth wing plans to drive through Germany from July to the end of August with a truck carrying a giant three-dimensional marijuana joint. The slogan: "A joint must go through Germany."