With 407 votes in favor, 226 against and four abstentions, the Bundestag approved today the partial legalization of Indian hemp in Germany. The government’s plan for controlled liberalization of the possession and use of cannabis has been highly criticized, while it is not considered certain that the government’s proposal will be approved by the Federal Council.

According to his plan Minister of Health Karl Lauterbach (SPD), from April 1, people over the age of 18 will be allowed to possess up to 25 grams of cannabis for personal consumption, and it will also be legal to grow up to three cannabis plants at home. From July 1, cultivation clubs will also be able to operate, with up to 500 adult members, but not for commercial use, only their own use – up to 50 grams/month. Public consumption in schools, sports facilities and at a distance of 100 meters from them will be prohibited, as is smoking on sidewalks until 20:00. The initial evaluation of the effectiveness of the measures should be completed no later than 18 months after the start of their implementation.

Health Minister Karl Lauterbach said earlier today that “with this law we will succeed in significantly reducing the black market, better protect our children and young people and have a safe product for adult consumers.” According to him, the policy so far has failed, because the consumers are more and more and mainly young.

The federal government’s commissioner for drugs Burkhart Blinert also expects positive results from the new legislation: “The bans do not help against smoking and the current criminalization has nothing to do with health protection. This can be seen from the reality of 4.5 million adult cannabis users in 2023,” said Mr. Blinnert and spoke of a new policy, “away from stigmatization and criminalization, with more protection and help.”

On the other hand, however, the President of the Medical Association Klaus Reinhard emphasized that cannabis is a substance that causes addiction. “About 10% of regular users are addicted, while regular use by people under the age of 25 can cause problems in brain development. I’m afraid legalization will push more people to try,” he said.

The German Judges’ Association also warned that the judiciary would be overburdened by the amnesty provision provided for in the law for those already convicted. “We expect more than 100,000 cases that will have to be re-examined in order to lift the penalties that have been imposed,” said the union’s federal director Sven Reben.

The new legislation will be submitted to the Federal Council for approval at the end of March. Approval is not legally required, but the Council can seek arbitration with the Bundestag, delaying the implementation of the law, something Bavarian Prime Minister Markus Zeder has already hinted he will attempt.

In the Bundestag today, however, some deputies of the Social Democratic Party (SPD) also voted against. Indicatively, the responsible for internal policy matters, Sebastian Fiedler, said that as a former police officer in the Anti-Crime Service (BKA), his professional ethics do not allow him to vote for a bill that lets drug dealers go free.