Germany legalizes cannabis: what are the consequences for neighbouring countries?

The German government has submitted a remarkable proposal to legalize cannabis. If the law goes into effect, Germans will be able to grow, possess and consume the drug for recreational purposes. This could have far-reaching consequences for European drug policy.

Partial legalization takes place in two stages. In a first phase, the cultivation and distribution of cannabis will be made possible in so-called cannabis clubs. From the age of 18, you can buy a maximum of 25 grams of cannabis per day and a maximum of 50 grams per month. Home cultivation of up to three ‘female flowering plants’ is also allowed.

There are restrictions. Near schools, public use is prohibited, and in the pedestrian zones of cities until 20.00.

In a second phase, sales through specialized stores with a license in Model regions will be tested.

The current bill is much less ambitious than the government’s original plan. In October, Karl Lauterbach, the minister of health, had submitted a proposal for free sale as in the Netherlands. But there was resistance from the European Union.

Instead of the Free Sale in coffee shops, the sale in ‘cannabis clubs’ takes place without profit, following the example of similar schemes in Malta and Spain.

War on drugs failed

According to Karl Lauterbach, the policy to criminalize cannabis has “failed”. He notes that the number of drug-related crimes is increasing year by year, and tightening the criminal law will not lead to anything. “We know that we will not get any further by just tightening the criminal law.”

He is joined in this by Marco Buschmann, the minister of Justice: “the ban on cannabis criminalizes countless people, forces them into criminal structures and costs handfuls of money for the law enforcement agencies. It is time for a new approach that allows more personal responsibility.”

“The ban on cannabis criminalizes countless people, forces them into criminal structures and costs handfuls of money”

There is also an important health aspect associated with legalization. Today there is an increasing social acceptance of cannabis use, but the users can currently only get to the intoxicants in subcultures and without quality control. According to Lauterbach, the legalization will therefore offer “more security”.

The new law will better protect consumers from impurities and toxic substances.

”We want to fight the black market, we want to reduce drug crime and get a grip on the steadily growing toxicity of cannabis products, ” as Lauterbach.

The illegality of drugs causes usurious prices and therefore generates serious crime. The right side swears by a muscular and criminal approach, but it has repeatedly proved its bankruptcy. The recent escalation of drug violence in Antwerp and elsewhere is a painful illustration of this.

More and more the understanding is growing that we have to throw it over a different bow. This includes the controlled legalization of soft drugs, combined with prevention and guidance of drug addicts. In the past, The Economist has made a strong case for this. Economist Paul De Grauwe also thinks in that direction.

With this law, Germany will in any case be the largest country in the world to legalize cannabis. Today, the commercial sale of this drug is allowed only in Canada, Uruguay and some states of the USA.

In a number of European countries, soft drug policies have become more tolerant in recent years. In Malta, the possession and cultivation of cannabis was legalized two years ago. The Netherlands has had a tolerance policy for years and coffee shops can sell the drug under strict conditions.

In Luxembourg, the sale of cannabis seeds and the cultivation of plants at home has recently been relaxed. In countries such as Italy, Spain and the Czech Republic, cannabis has been decriminalized. This means that personal possession of small amounts is allowed, but that dealing is still severely punished.

If Germany’s legalization policy proves successful, then it could become a model for the rest of Europe

If Germany’s legalisation policy proves successful, it could become a model for the rest of Europe, and certainly for Belgium. In our country, cannabis is still an illegal drug. For its possession or use, one still risks a penalty, although it has the lowest prosecution priority.

Legalization of cannabis is one of the main projects of the German government coalition. The youth sections of the Social Democrats, the Greens and the Liberals in particular have been pushing for the liberalisation and decriminalisation of drugs for years.