Germany eyes further relaxation of cannabis laws

As parties continue to engage in coalition talks following the recent German elections, the prospect of a greater relaxation of the country’s strict cannabis laws now appears on the cards.

Any moves will be closely followed by the (re)insurance market, given the huge commercial potential that such an emerging risk would present in Europe’s economic powerhouse.

The Social Democrats (SPD), Greens and the pro-business Free Democrats (FDP) are set to engage in coalition talks in a bid to become the next German government, with cannabis set to be a component of discussions.

Indeed, FDP leader Christian Lindner (pic) has now come out in favour of allowing cannabis products such as hashish to be sold in a controlled manner.

Consumers should be allowed “to purchase a quantity for their own use, for example, in a pharmacy after health education,” Lindner told a live broadcast on German daily Bild.

Lindner stressed that he was sceptical about the sale in “coffee shops” according to the Dutch model. “I am in favour of controlled distribution, and therefore health education must be able to take place,” he said.

People in the Netherlands can access cannabis products in coffee shops under the country’s tolerant drugs policy. However, coffee shops have to follow certain strict conditions, such as not being allowed to sell large quantities to an individual.

Lindner said his main aims were about “crime and health prevention” and not with “legalising a right to intoxication”.

At present it is not clear if Lindner advocates for prescription-only cannabis for medical use, or an over-the-counter model.

The FDP previously said that  they are in favour of the creation of licensed shops.

Their manifesto highlighted the health benefits, tax windfalls and reallocation of police resources that legalisation would create.

The Green party also want licensed shops, as well as a whole new approach to drug control starting with the controlled legalisation of marijuana. The Greens state that “strict youth and user protection” would be the centre point of their legislation and hope to “pull the rug from under the black market”.

The SPD also want a reform of Germany’s prohibition stance, but are more cautious than the smaller parties on the legalisation aspect. They would like to set up pilot projects in the first instance.

At present, the sale of cannabis is officially banned in Germany. Possession of cannabis is also currently illegal across the entire country. Those caught carrying the substance can face anything from a fine to five years in jail.

The definition of personal use differs from state to state, with Berlin having the most liberal rules and Bavaria the tightest.

It is estimated that around four million people regularly use cannabis in Germany.

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