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Mass Brandenburg Gate ‘Smoke In’ Heralds Part Legalization of Cannabis in Germany

Mass Brandenburg Gate ‘Smoke In’ Heralds Part Legalization of Cannabis in Germany

Cannabis users have been celebrating in Germany after new laws legalising personal possession came into effect.

Lili Bayers and agencies

2 April 2024 at 11:00:00

This report from The Guardian, 1 April 2024.

As of 1 April 2024, adults are allowed to carry up to 25g of dried cannabis on them and cultivate up to three marijuana plants at home.

At midnight, people gathered at Berlin’s Brandenburg Gate for a “smoke-in” to welcome the new rules, which were introduced after a heated debate about the pros and cons of allowing easier access to the drug.

The government says decriminalisation will have an impact on the hidden market and reduce the spread of contaminated cannabis, thereby protecting young people.

“Cannabis use already existed yesterday; it has been increasing,” the German health minister, Karl Lauterbach, said on Monday, 1 April 2024.

“Now it’s coming out of the taboo zone. This is better for real addiction help, prevention for children and young people and for combating the black market, for which there will soon be an alternative,” he said in a social media post.

Marco Buschmann, the justice minister, told German media that the partial legalisation would ease the burden on the judiciary and police.

But there has been criticism about the possible impact on young people.

“From our point of view, the law as it is written is a disaster,” Katja Seidel, a therapist at a drug addiction centre in Berlin, the Tannenhof Berlin-Brandenburg, told Agence France-Presse (AFP).

“Access to the product will be easier, its image will change and become more normalised, especially among young people,” Seidel said, adding that she expected to see an increase in cannabis use “at least initially”.

Cannabis consumption by anyone under 18 will continue to be illegal.

The new legislation also has some safeguards to protect young people, including a ban on smoking cannabis within 100 metres (328ft) of a school, kindergarten, playground or sports centre.

Lauterbach has promised a major campaign to educate young people about the health risks and boost prevention programmes.

However, the planned media campaign hasn’t convinced critics. “It doesn’t resonate with them, it will never work,” said Boris Knoblich, a spokesperson for the Tannenhof Berlin-Brandenburg organisation. “What works is someone who goes in, talks to them over a coffee, without a teacher there,” he said.

German law enforcement officials have also raised concerns.

“From 1 April, our colleagues will find themselves in situations of conflict with citizens, as uncertainty reigns on both sides,” said the German police union’s deputy federal chairman, Alexander Poitz, Deutsche Welle reported.

The union has expressed concerns about regulating the consumption of cannabis within the permitted distance to certain facilities and about the lack of instruments police would need.

“The burden of implementing the law lies on the shoulders of the federal states and local authorities. The federal government has ordered, the federal government must pay,” said Poitz.

The federal centre for health education, linked to the health ministry, told AFP it will “assume its responsibility by expanding its prevention offers”.

The southern state of Bavaria meanwhile is testing an online training course for teachers on how to approach the topic in the classroom.

According to official statistics from 2021, 8.8% of adults in Germany aged 18-64 said they had consumed cannabis at least once in the preceding 12 months.

Among people aged 12 to 17, that number rose to nearly 10%.

The government has said previously that many users rely on the drug for medicinal reasons and that the new law will improve the quality of cannabis consumed by growing numbers of young people.

Observers from around the world will be closely watching how the law works in practice in Germany.

The European Green party celebrated the move as a “Green win”, claiming on social media that it would “reduce drug trafficking” and relieve the pain and symptoms of some diseases.

“We hope that the rest of EU countries will follow in Germany’s footsteps!” they said.

Agence France-Presse contributed to this report

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