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Germany legalises cannabis federally but local opposition anticipated

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After numerous delays, the planned legalisation of cannabis consumption in Germany has passed its last major obstacle – the Bundesrat (Federal Council) – however further resistance at the local level is anticipated.

The partial legalisation of cannabis in Germany has been a long process. Under pressure from the FDP (Renew) and the Greens (Greens/EFA), it was included in the coalition agreement and was one of the most prominent promises of the federal government. However, it has been repeatedly delayed, first because of concerns by the SPD (S&D) and later because of disagreements in the Bundesrat – the upper house of parliament.

Now the flagship project of the Federal Government has passed the last opposition, an uncertainty up until the last minute.

Earlier this week, Health Minister Karl Lauterbach (SPD/S&D) even warned of the law’s possible ‘death’ in the Bundesrat.

Though the upper house would not have been able to block the law outright, it could have delayed it indefinitely by convening a mediation committee.

The law itself aims to legalise the private cultivation of three cannabis plants and the possession of up to 25 grams of marijuana. Those who do not want to cultivate themselves can join one of the so-called Cannabis Social Clubs, where cultivation is organised collectively.

Cannabis enthusiasts were not discouraged by the prospect of another possible delay.

“Compared to the last two years, it’s almost concrete once the law is passed,” Steffen Geyer, chairman of the German Cannabis Social Clubs Association, told Euractiv.

He added, “People with low resilience to bureaucratic delays have already sorted themselves out in the last few months.”

The association aims to normalise future cultivation within society, as the cultivation clubs are “no different from rabbit breeders or rose growers or a pigeon club”. They see themselves as a “lovingly cultivated private form of agriculture,” says Geyer.

The real problem, according to Geyer, is the regional interpretation of the law. Though in many regions of Germany, it is expected that the application will be favourably received, he warned “the further south you go, the greater the political pressure against the cannabis social clubs.”

This dissatisfaction at the state level is already being felt, not among the future cannabis clubs, but on the political stage, in the Bundesrat of the 16 federated states.

Some states led by conservative Christian Democrats (CDU/EPP) are trying to delay the law indefinitely, by calling for a mediation committee between the Bundestag and the Bundesrat.

Saxony’s head of state, Michael Kretschmer (CDU), announced on X over the weekend that his aim was, “never to let this law come out of the mediation committee again.”

Faced with opposition, even from his own party, Health Minister Lauterbach turned to the states again before the vote.

According to Redaktionsnetzwerk Deutschland, the German government has promised to amend the law before the vote on legalisation of cannabis cultivation in July.

Which aims to reduce bureaucracy, and limit the outsourcing of cultivation to commercial providers.

The provisions seem to be enough to avoid a significant delay in the Bundesrat.

Even though the law passed smoothly, Geyer expects much political opposition, especially in Bavaria and Baden-Württemberg, some of which may only be resolved in court.

Now, Geyer is preparing for another delay regarding local cultivation, as he expects resistance in some places.

“In Bavaria in particular, it will only be possible to apply for a permit from 1 July.”

The subsequent three-month processing period will certainly be utilised, and then “one can prepare to take the authorities to court,” said Geyer.

[Edited by Rajnish Singh]

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