Opinion & Analysis

OPINION: New cannabis law in Germany isn't dangerous - it's common sense

Brian Melican
Brian Melican - [email protected]
OPINION: New cannabis law in Germany isn't dangerous - it's common sense
Cannabis is set to be legalised in Germany. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Karl-Josef Hildenbrand

Following much controversy, Germany's new cannabis act partially legalising the drug is now in force. Brian Melican writes about why that's not a moment too soon.


If you ask me, Germany’s Cannabis Legalisation - in effect this April 1st - is a missed opportunity.

Sure, there will be plenty of people who find Aprilscherze, as April Fools are known here, that bit funnier than usual straight after their first legal toke, but my personal preference would have been for legalisation on the 20th of the month. Stoners will know why – and, in the context of a worrying resurgence of the far right in Germany, repurposing Hitler’s birthday for a big lefty smoke-out would have been a two-fingered, one-jointed gesture that might have tempted me to light up again…

READ ALSO: Germany gives green light to partially legalise cannabis from April 1st

But no: been there, done that, got the t-shirt.

Like many of my (increasingly middle) age who grew up in the 90s and 00s, I’ve smoked plenty of cannabis. Skunk was all over London when I was teenager – the Rasta-man guys selling t-shirts at Camden Market would shout “Pussyhole!” at you for not buying it – and anyone out in Hamburg’s Schanzenviertel knew exactly where to ‘pick up’, as the long-dormant synapses in my brain are telling me we used to say in English.

In German, we simply talked about ‘kaufen’. One thing we never said, by the way, was Bubatz – like many, I too learned this word from Christian Lindner’s now legendary legalisation tweet, and all I can say is that our Finance Minster clearly listens to more contemporary German rap music than I do.

No, my interest in new music declined precipitously a while back – as did my desire to smoke cannabis. Partly, it was a simple matter of growing up: moving out of a lads’ flat-share in which we kept a Tupperware box of the stuff in the kitchen to ‘skin up’ (“eine bauen”) after dinner; having increasing commitments; stopping smoking cigarettes. Partly, though, it was about the less pleasant sides of (I’m straining my synapses again:) ‘scoring’: park benches and car windows; ever-changing suppliers and inconsistent quality; the continuous low-level worry that you’re doing something that could get you a criminal record.

Forward-looking reform rather than outdated arguments

Looking back, I had a lot of fun times when high – and would have had to take far fewer risks to my health or future employment prospects if I could have done it all legally; state coffers would have had their fair share, too. Yes, cannabis can be damaging: I’ve known a few people who lost the plot on pot; then again, most got a grip again, none of them died – and I’ve known far more alcoholics and coke addicts in much worse states.

Man smoking cannabis

A man smokes at the 'Global Marijuana March 2022' at Berlin's Brandenburg Gate. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Christoph Soeder

Which of course brings us straight to the heart of the controversy leading up to the passing of the recent partial legalisation act. There was a lot of eleventh-hour parliamentary wrangling as several premiers of German federal states tried to stymie the bill in Bundesrat (the upper house) after it was passed by Bundestag (the lower house), with dramatic warnings about “opening Pandora’s box”, “thousands of lives scarred by drugs”, and “courts overwhelmed” with the workload of overturning historic convictions.

As was to be expected, the loudest voices and most drastic choices of words were to be found in the conservative ranks of the CDU and CSU: Michael Kretschmer of Saxony and Bavaria’s Markus Söder were the most alarmist of the opponents.

READ ALSO: Why is Germany's cannabis draft law so controversial?


While I don’t impugn their motives, I – and, as the bill’s passage shows, a majority – think they are overstating a case based on increasingly outdated arguments. There’s little need to rehearse them in detail here, but essentially, the ongoing worldwide debate about cannabis policy boils down to two opposing concepts of how to reduce harm: by seeking to suppress and eradicate the drug (treating it like heroin or crack cocaine) or by accepting its existence and trying to regulate its use while ensuring its quality (treating it more like alcohol and tobacco).

Increasingly, this latter side – my side – is winning the argument.

It’s primarily due to experience with legalisation elsewhere in the world, where it has cut the black market down to size and increased tax take without any of the apocalyptic side-effects foretold. In US states which have pursued liberalisation, opioid drugs, alcohol, and cigarettes (as well as firearms…) are still what lead to untimely death, not weed. Just go to Colorado.


An important change

The reform will change little – but represents an important change. Indeed, our legalisation of possession and cultivation for medical and recreational use is broadly similar to that of the Rocky-Mountain state: 50 grams at home, 25 gram while out and about; there won’t be any Amsterdam-style coffee shops and – this bit is characteristically, charmingly German – sale will be through ‘Cannabis Clubs’ registered under eingetragener Verein law.

READ ALSO: Explained: How to start your own Verein in Germany

I wish the presidents, secretaries, and ordinary members of these new associations every success in the challenge of holding regular committee meetings and producing accounts – and am confident that, as users of marijuana, they will intuitively grasp the importance of adequate snacks and liquid refreshments in such circumstances (even your average neighbourhood association quarterly is enough to provoke fits of the munchies and cotton mouth…)

No, in all seriousness, the new legal regime for cannabis is unquestionably A Good Thing. Primarily because it is simply legalising a wide-spread state of affairs: millions of people in Germany regularly smoke cannabis – as they have done since the 1960s (just ask the next pony-tailed Alt-68er you meet about his student days…). Even those who find this fact worrying must admit that decades of anti- drugs policy have had no discernible effect.

Indeed, it says a lot that the man who has argued consistently for the reform and ensured its enactment is none other than temperamentally hyper-cautious Health Minister Karl Lauterbach, a man who has his own no-added-salt food served at Bundestag and was so terrified of coronavirus that he kept us in restrictions for a full year longer than comparable countries. Indeed, he was previously against legalisation due to the perceived risks, and it is much to his credit that he has spoken openly about his change of heart.

During the pandemic, we were all told by him to follow the science – and in this instance, he is practising what he preaches.

READ ALSO: Fact check: Does Germany really have the world's strictest Covid measures?


The wisdom of his policy will be proved in short order. No, we will not have hundreds of thousands of new smokers, a sharp rise in drug-crime, or hordes of dope-crazed tourists. No, I am not rushing out today to ‘blaze up a big fat one’ just because I now can (yes, in another indication of my age, my weed slang is RBX and Dr. Dre, not Bushido and Capital Bra…). I won’t even be buying my own plant, despite being a keen gardener: as a lot of flat-shares in Germany are about to learn, cultivating cannabaceae for the purposes of intoxication in these climes is an uphill struggle. But if I’m offered a home-baked hash-cookie at some point, I might take a bite.

And if there’s a good April Fool meme out there somewhere equating the traffic-light party-political colours of the governing coalition to the Rastafarian red, yellow, and green, I’d definitely buy the t-shirt. I owe as much to my younger self – and to the Camden pushers!



#Opinion & Analysis

#drugs #Politics

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rcr1994 2024/03/29 09:11
good one

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