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Will Germany Decriminalize Marijuana?

With its elections complete, the country is poised to make major reforms to its cannabis policy.

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Following the German elections on Sept. 26, many observers expect the country to move forward with changes in regulating the use of cannabis. Much depends on what party ultimately emerges from the election with the biggest vote share, but decriminalization of marijuana seems likely.

Four of the six major parties in Germany support ending the prohibition against adult use of marijuana. Much like the War on Drugs in the United States, they see prohibition in Germany as a failure.

According to a study by the European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction (EMCDDA), almost 30 percent of Germans 15 to 64 have tried cannabis at least once. An estimated four million people use cannabis regularly in Germany. But the only source of cannabis is the black market. Many politicians in Germany want to change that.

RELATED: How Germany Became the New Cannabis Capital of Europe

Germany is not as conservative on cannabis as you might expect

Germany has a reputation for sound fiscal policy and a tendency to conservatism on big issues. However, the country also has progressive policies on issues such as universal healthcare and free college. For many Germans, that mindset extends to cannabis legalization.

Four of the six German parties represented in the German Parliament (Bundestag) favor changing the country’s laws on cannabis. They include the Free Democrats (FDP), the Green Party, the Left Party, and the Social Democrats (SDP).

Missing from that list is the Christian Democratic Union, the party of current Chancellor Angela Merkel and Armin Laschet, who ran to replace her. However, going into the election, the SPD held a clear lead in the polls. If they win a majority and appoint a chancellor, it’s likely to be Olaf Scholz, the former mayor of Hamburg who now serves as Vice Chancellor and Federal Minister of Finance.

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Testing the water on legal adult-use sales

The SPD does not favor full legalization. Much like U.S. President Joe Biden, they support the decriminalization of marijuana for personal use. Members of the party also have supported pilot programs to have limited sales of cannabis to adults. However, party members voted against a bill legalizing a controlled market for adult-use marijuana in 2020.

That “dip the toes into the water” approach came from the Green Party, the only party (so far) to write a plan for legalizing cannabis. The party drafted its Cannabis Control Bill to create a controlled market that distributes cannabis to adults at designated sites, according to news source Deutsche Welle.  Although the Bundestag voted it down, most observers expect a bill of some sort to return, especially if the SPD has more power. 

Scholtz also has made it clear he wants to form a coalition government with the Green Party, making it more likely that legalizing cannabis - or, at the very least, decriminalizing it – again becomes a topic of debate in the Bundestag in the near future, but with a better chance for success.

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