German Parliament Approves Cannabis Legalization Bill

Stephen Andrews
23 Feb 2024

Germany has just become the third European country to approve recreational use of cannabis. The bill proposed by the German ruling coalition would allow limited possession and cultivation of cannabis, and it will take hold from April 1.

German lawmakers approved the partial legalization of cannabis in the country on Friday, Feb. 23. The new bill was supported with 407 votes in favor and 226 votes against, while four MPs abstained

The bill was backed by the three parties that form the German coalition government: the center-left Social Democratic Party, the business-orientated Free Democratic Party, and the environmentalist The Greens. The legalization plan was heavily opposed by the conservative Christian Democratic Union. 

Cannabis Legalization in Germany Starts on April 1

With new legislation in place, Germany is now the third European country to permit the personal use of cannabis. The bill will effectively remove cannabis from the official list of banned substances, and it will allow adults of legal age to possess up to 50 grams of cannabis at home, and 25 grams in public. Homegrowing of up to three plants for personal use is also permitted. The bill officially takes effect on April 1, 2024.

Germany’s Health Minister, Karl Lauterbach, said his expectations were that the new bill would help subdue the black market which currently is the main source of cannabis for millions of German users. The regulation will enable those users to transition from street dealers to supplying weed from registered cannabis clubs. 

The government also said that many users rely on cannabis for therapeutic purposes, and that the new law would further improve the quality of cannabis consumed by the younger populations. 

“Child and youth protection is at the heart of what this law is meant to achieve,” Lauterbach said during the parliament debate before the vote. “Over the past decade consumption by children and young people has steadily increased,” he said. 

Opponents disagreed with Lauterbach, however. 

Heated Debates Ahead of the Legalization Vote

Tino Sorge, health spokesperson for the opposition, said the law was sending the wrong message to young people. 

“The coalition government is sending a completely wrong signal to our society, and acting as the state’s drug dealer,” Sorge said. “The government is playing with the health of our young people.” 

A doctors’ group has also opposed cannabis legalization. 

“Cannabis has the potential for dependence; around 10% of regular users of cannabis have an addiction,” Klaus Reinhardt, the head of the German medical association told public broadcaster WDR ahead of Friday’s Bundestag approval. 

“I believe that when the ban is overturned, it may tempt people to say, ‘Well, it’s obviously not that bad, I’ll try it out,” Reinhardt said. 

Another argument heard in the debates was that it will be challenging to control marijuana once the ban is removed. 

“We will have a certain control effort, but within reasonable limits, and I believe that this will quickly settle down,” Lauterbach said in a TV statement. 

“Whenever a major new law comes along, we have a monitoring period, especially at the beginning,” the health minister said. 

Survey Results Showed High Support for Legalization 

A survey by YouGov released ahead of the vote, revealed that almost half of German residents are in favor of legalizing cannabis. 

The poll, which included 2,151 answers, found that 47% of respondents are somewhat or completely in favor of overturning the ban. Another 42% said that they somewhat or completely do not support the legalization plan, however. 

Around 11% of respondents said that they don’t have a strong opinion on the legalization question. 

The German coalition government reached a cannabis legislation deal earlier this month, after a prolonged period of setbacks and revisions on the legalization plan. The approved bill represents a significantly scaled-back version of the initial cannabis legislation proposal, but it’s nevertheless historic. 

Germany is only the third EU member state to introduce a regulation on legal cannabis. Malta was first in 2021, and Luxembourg next in 2023. 

The Netherlands is also on a pathway toward legalization, with a government initiative seeking to replace illegal cultivation with legal offer in the country’s existent coffee shops. 

More from Soft Secrets on this topic:

Germany Scales Back Plans for Cannabis Reform

German Cabinet Approves Legalization Plan

- Czechia May Align with Germany on Cannabis Legalization

Stephen Andrews