Germany approves plans to relax marijuana rules allowing 'cannabis clubs'

Credit: AP

Germany's government has approved a plan to relax its rules on cannabis.

The bill, which the cabinet hopes will come into force next year, would make it legal to be in possession of up to 25 grams (nearly once ounce) of the drug for recreational purposes.

While the plans have been approved by cabinet, they still have to get the green light from Germany's parliament.

Under the proposed rules, individuals would be able to grow up to three cannabis plants of their own.

Germans who are 18 and older would be able to join nonprofit “cannabis clubs” with a maximum of 500 members each.

The clubs would be allowed to grow cannabis for members’ personal consumption.

Individuals would be allowed to buy up to 25 grams per day, or a maximum 50 grams per month - a figure limited to 30 grams for under-21s if the proposed bill gets the go ahead.

Membership in multiple clubs would not be allowed.

The clubs’ costs would be covered by membership fees, which would be staggered according to how much cannabis each person uses.

Officials hope their plan will help protect consumers against contaminated products and reduce drug-related crime.

German Health Minister Karl Lauterbach Credit: AP

Health Minister Karl Lauterbach said he expects the system to produce “very competitive” prices, “so we think that we can push back the black market well with these rules.”

But there will still be some restrictions on using and selling cannabis.

The government wants to ban advertising or sponsoring cannabis at the proposed clubs.

People will also not be allowed to use it within 200 metres of schools, playgrounds and sports facilities, or near cannabis clubs.

The new relaxed policy is to be accompanied by a campaign to warn young people of the risks of consuming the drug.

This is just the first stage of Germany's cannabis plan, the second part would see a five-year trial of regulated commercial supply chains in parts of the county.

These would then be scientifically evaluated.

The centre-right opposition argues the social democrat government is pressing ahead with legalising a risky drug despite European legal obstacles and expert opinion.

An organisation representing German judges says the plan is likely to increase rather than decrease the burden on the judicial system.

There are also fears the plan could increase demand for black-market cannabis.

Health Minister Lauterbach said: "[At present,] “we have rising consumption, problematic consumption... it simply couldn't have carried on like this.”He added that “approval with much more liberalisation, like for example in Holland or some American states, would have led to consumption expanding”, and that those who oppose any legalisation “have no answer” to rising consumption and crime, and a burgeoning black market.

Dutch authorities tolerate the sale and consumption of small amounts of cannabis in its popular coffeeshops but producing and selling large amounts of it, remains illegal.

Across Europe, Switzerland is trialing allowing people to buy recreational cannabis from pharmacies and the Czech government is poised to propose a similar plan to the one Germany has just approved.

Denmark's capital, Copenhagen, proposed legalising weed but this was turned down by parliament.

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