Germany set to legalise cannabis 'soon', says minister
German Finance Minister Christian Lindner (FDP) has confirmed that the process of legalising recreational weed has started.
In a tweet sent out on Friday, Lindner wrote: "A question that people keep asking me: 'When will Bubatz be legal? I would say: soon."
"Bubatz" is German street slang for cannabis and is normally heard in hip-hop and rap music rather than statements from government ministers.
Lindner was referring to a policy formulated by Social Democrats (SDP), Greens and Free Democrats (FDP) in their coalition agreement last November, which vowed to legalise the use of recreational cannabis.
Weed is already legal in medical contexts in Germany, but the move to full legalisation marks a significant change for recreational users of the drug.
Back in January, Justice Minister Marco Buschmann (FDP) told Spiegel that the changes to the Narcotics Act had to be carried out by the Ministry of Health.
"It is obvious to everyone at the moment that the ministry and the new minister, Karl Lauterbach, now have their hands full with the fight against the pandemic," he said.
But with the threat of Covid-19 receding in the past few months, it appears that the Ministry of Health is now turning its attention to legalising the psychoactive drug.
On Friday, it emerged that the Federal Commissioner on Narcotic Drugs, Burkhard Blienert, was planning the technical details of the policy in consultation with government ministries and other experts.
"The point is to pool knowledge and experience, but also to address objections and reservations very openly," he told DPA.
This part of the process, which will help the government iron out things like regulation and supply chains, should be completed by autumn.
"Hardly any other drug policy issue has occupied people as much as cannabis for decades," Blienert said. "We all know how complex this project is."
Health Minister Karl Lauterbach (SPD) agreed with this timeline, saying expert discussions would start over the summer and a draft law would be presented in the second half of the year.
Where will people be able to buy cannabis?
Currently, cannabis is only available for medical purposes in Germany, but the change in the law will make it available at licensed shops for recreational users.
It's unclear how widespread these licensed shops would be at present: it could be as commonly sold as alcohol or it could be restricted to more specialised vendors like pharmacies.
At the very least, staff training is likely to be a prerequisite for a sales licence. This would enable vendors to provide customers with information about the potential harms of the drug and recognise people who may be addicted.
Unfortunately for fans of Amsterdam, the Dutch model of licensed coffee shops for smoking weed with friends seems unlikely to happen anytime soon.
Instead, weed will be available to buy for smoking at home or elsewhere.