Germany will legalise CANNABIS, country’s new coalition leaders announce
Germany will legalise the recreational use of cannabis, the country’s new coalition government has announced as party leaders struck a power-sharing deal today.
The centre-left SPD, liberal Free Democrats and eco-friendly Greens are now poised to take power from Angela Merkel’s conservative CDU party, two months after it was given a drubbing in national elections.
Publishing their agenda for government today, the so-called ‘traffic light’ coalition said cannabis will be regulated and sold to adults for use in licenced shops alongside a raft of other measures such as phasing out coal power and steps to tackle Covid.
Since legalising medical marijuana in 2017, Germany’s market has become the largest in Europe, selling £154million worth of high-THC products to patients last year, according to New Frontier Data.
If cannabis is legalised for recreational use, the country – which has a population of more than 83million – could become the biggest cannabis market in the world.
The agreement also puts Olaf Scholz, SDP leader, on track to replace Angela Merkel as Chancellor – the first time in 16 years that the top job has changed hands.
Scholz says he expects members of the three parties to vote the 180-page deal through within the next 10 days, after which it will become binding.
Germany will legalise the recreational use of cannabis, the new coalition government has announced as it struck a power-sharing deal and laid out its agenda for the next four years
The three-way alliance – which has never yet been tried in a national government – will replace the current ‘grand coalition’ of the country’s traditional big parties if party members give the go-ahead.
Negotiators have spent more than a month hammering out the agreement, which paves the way for a so-called ‘traffic light’ coalition – named after the colours associated with each of the parties.
The relatively rapid accord will be greeted by a heave of relief by international partners wary of a hamstrung Germany while crises from the coronavirus pandemic to Belarus and a weak economic recovery rage.
Scholz, of the center-left Social Democrats, said the new government would not seek ‘the lowest common denominator, but the politics of big impacts.’
He stressed the importance of a sovereign Europe, friendship with France and partnership with the United States as key cornerstones of the government’s foreign policy – continuing a long post-war tradition.
The Social Democrats have served as the junior partner to Merkel’s center-right Christian Democrats.
Olaf Scholz (centre), leader of the SPD party, will become Germany’s next Chancellor under the terms of the agreement – taking the reins from Angela Merkel after 16 years
Merkel, who didn’t run for a fifth term, is expected to be succeeded by Scholz, 63, who has been her finance minister and vice chancellor since 2018.
The three would-be governing parties have said they hope parliament will elect Scholz as chancellor in the week beginning Dec. 6.
WHAT IS GERMANY’S ATTITUDE TOWARDS CANNABIS?
In recent years, public opinion in Germany has shifted towards the legalisation of cannabis, despite Angela Merkel’s Government being more opposed to the idea than the coalition partners.
A recent survey, conducted in October by German Hemp Association, found that 49 per cent of respondents were in favour of legalising cannabis for recreational use.
This was compared with just 46 per cent of German residents who were opposed to the move, which could see cannabis sold in specialty venues, similar to those found in the US and Canada.
The findings marked the first time since 2014 that more German residents were in favour of legalising cannabis in the annual poll.
Before that can happen, the deal requires approval from a ballot of the Greens’ roughly 125,000-strong membership and from conventions of the other two parties.
News of the deal came as Merkel led what was likely to be her last Cabinet meeting. Scholz presented the 67-year-old, who has led Germany since 2005, with a bouquet of flowers.
The negotiations over the alliance were relatively harmonious and speedy compared to previous coalition talks.
But the political transition, with Merkel as a lame-duck caretaker, has hampered Germany’s response to the latest rise in coronavirus cases.
Few details have emerged from the closed-doors talks, including how the parties will divide up the ministerial portfolios.
The alliance is a potentially uneasy mixture because it brings together two traditionally left-leaning parties with one, the Free Democrats, that has tended to ally with the center-right.
A preliminary agreement last month indicated that Germany would bring forward its deadline for ending the use of coal-fueled power from 2038 to 2030, while expanding the rollout of renewable energy generation.
At the Free Democrats’ insistence, the prospective partners said they won’t raise taxes or loosen curbs on running up debt, making financing a central issue.
Merkel’s Christian Democrats are currently preoccupied with a leadership contest over who will become their next leader and revive the party’s fortunes after it suffered its worst-ever election result.
The swift pace at which the three parties – known in Germany as the Ampel or ‘traffic-light’ after their colours – came together is a surprise given that the FDP is not a natural partner with the centre-left SPD or Greens.
Mrs Merkel’s conservative CDU party has been ousted from power in an election drubbing following her departure as leader and as Chancellor
But the parties are anxious to avoid a repeat of the messy negotiations last time round, when Lindner was vilified for pulling the plug on talks with Merkel’s CDU-CSU and the Greens.
Known for her steady hand steering Germany through the eurozone crisis, migrant influx and Brexit, Merkel is leaving office still widely popular with the German electorate.
Mindful of the value placed on a stable Germany, the veteran politician has taken pains to ensure an orderly transition.
Stressing continuity, she included Scholz in key bilateral meetings during the G20 summit in Rome in October including with US President Joe Biden.
When she met regional leaders of Germany’s 16 states for urgent talks last week on the pandemic, Scholz was prominently also in attendance.
She has also shrugged aside the fact that Scholz stems from a rival political party, saying she will be ‘able to sleep soundly’ with him as chancellor.
Vote of confidence from Merkel aside, Scholz is an experienced hand, having been labour minister in her first coalition from 2007 to 2009 before taking over as vice-chancellor and finance minister in 2015.
Known for being meticulous, confident and fiercely ambitious, he has cemented his reputation as a fiscal conservative – something that at times puts him at odds with his workers’ party.
WHO IS OLAF SCHOLZ?
Social Democrat (SPD) Olaf Scholz, 63, is on the brink of becoming the next German chancellor, relieving Angela Merkel of her duties after 16 years.
The Social Democrats begun the election campaign at rock bottom in the polls, with many writing off his chances of becoming chancellor – so much so that he doesn’t even have an official biography.
Olaf Scholz (above) has been working his way up the ranks since the 1970s and is set to become the next German chancellor
But Scholz positioned himself as the best candidate to continue Merkel’s legacy, adopting her famous ‘rhombus’ hand gesture on a magazine cover.
Unlike his rivals, he managed not to make embarrassing mistakes during a campaign that drew on his reputation as a quiet workhorse, using the slogan ‘Scholz will sort it’.
Once described by Der Spiegel magazine as ‘the embodiment of boredom in politics’, Scholz has been slowly working his way up the ranks since the 1970s.
Born in Osnabrueck, he joined SPD’s youth movement in 1975 and became vice-president in the 1980s, but failed to become its leader because he was considered too left-wing.
After training as a lawyer and founding his own law firm specialised in labour issues in 1985, Scholz was elected to the national parliament in 1998.
During his 2002-2004 stint as the SPD’s general secretary, he earned the nickname ‘Scholzomat’ for his dry yet tireless defence of the unpopular labour reforms of then-chancellor Gerhard Schroeder.
As labour minister in Merkel’s first coalition government from 2007 to 2009, Scholz helped avert mass lay-offs during the financial crisis by convincing firms to cut workers’ hours with the state topping up their salaries – a policy also used in the Covid crisis.
He was the mayor of Hamburg from 2011 to 2018, overseeing the development of the cherished but expensive Elbphilharmonie concert hall, which he rescued with a multi-million-euro bailout. His cautious approach saw him overlooked in a leadership vote in 2019.
For Scholz, whose motto is ‘I can only distribute what I have’, the spending was justified by the city-state’s healthy finances.
As finance minister and vice-chancellor under Merkel from 2018, he suspended Germany’s debt brake to unleash a trillion-euro ‘bazooka’ to ward off the effects of the Covid pandemic on the economy.
Scholz, who lives in Potsdam with his SPD politician wife Britta Ernst, is seen as fiscally conservative and has insisted on a return to the no new debt policy by 2023 – a rule included in the new coalition contract.
Which countries have legalised cannabis, and what are their rules?
The South American country became the first in the world to legalise cannabis nationwide for recreational use back in 2013.
Citizens may buy cannabis plants to grow at home, buy the drug through a pharmacy, or else get their supplies by joining a growing club.
Cannabis is legal to store and smoke at home, but in order to buy it users must be registered with the government, are limited to buying four strains with low THC counts, and are limited to purchasing 10 grams per week.
While the law was passed in 2013, it took until 2017 for the government to actually licence pharmacies to sell cannabis. A survey the following year found that most users still buy from illicit dealers.
Justin Trudeau’s liberal government became the second to legalise the recreational use of cannabis nationwide in 2018.
It is currently legal for adults in Canada to possess up to 30 grams of cannabis, grow up to four plants at home for personal use, buy cannabis products from licenced stores, and make cannabis products such as edibles.
A woman smokes marijuana during a legalisation party in 2018, after Justin Trudeau’s government made recreational use of the drug legal
Between April 2019 and March 2020, the government made some $24million from taxes on cannabis products – far less than expected – but has cut costs on law enforcement, as charges for possession dropped to almost nil.
Following a constitutional court ruling in 2018, cannabis effectively became legal for recreational purposes in South Africa.
As the law stands, adults may possess and cultivate cannabis for their own personal use, provided the drug is consumed in private.
THC – the active ingredient in cannabis – is also legal, provided it takes the form of raw plant products and has not been processed.
Consumption of cannabis in public, the sale of cannabis or cannabis products, and consumption by minors is illegal and punished by up to 25 years in jail.
The recreational use of cannabis in the small, ex-Soviet country was also effectively legalised by Constitutional Court decree in 2018.
Judges ruled that the growing and use of cannabis within a person’s private property is protected under the constitution, which guarantees the ‘right to free personality’.
However, the large-scale cultivation and sale of cannabis remains illegal with law-breakers facing up to 14 years in jail.
A 2019 Supreme Court ruling decriminalised the cultivation and consumption of cannabis at home, stating that laws banning it were unconstitutional and violated personal rights.
But the large-scale production of cannabis and commercial sale of the drug remains illegal, as is carrying more than five grams of the drug.
Mexico’s Supreme Court has ruled that personal cultivation and consumption of marijuana is legal, but attempts to legalise the commercial market have stalled
Lawmakers are currently working on a bill to make large-scale cultivation and commercial sale of the drug legal, while increasing possession limits to 28g.
But the law, which does not have widespread public backing, has stalled in parliament and its future remains unclear.
While illegal under federal law, some 16 US states have legalised marijuana for recreational use within their borders.
Laws vary from state, but broadly speaking users in such states are allowed to cultivate their own plants, consume cannabis within private properties and purchase the drug from licenced dispensaries.
Efforts are underway on Capitol Hill to fully legalize the drug, with rival Republican and Democrat proposals being worked on.
However, the issue is far from the top of the legislative agenda with few expecting a major change in the law any time soon.
Long associated with pot culture, the Caribbean island only decriminalised the possession of small amounts of cannabis in 2015.
Rastafarians, who believe the cannabis plant is sacred, are allowed to smoke unlimited amounts for sacramental purposes.
Other individuals are allowed to cultivate the plants at home, while smoke in private residences and licenced dispensaries is legal.
Those caught in possession of larger amounts of the drug are required to pay a fine, unless they have a medical exemption.
Known for its radical approach to drug policy, cannabis in Portugal – like all drugs – has been decriminalised since 2001 but is not legal.
In practice, that means anyone caught in possession of the drug faces no criminal penalty but will have the drug confiscated and face a range of non-criminal sanctions.
Those can range from attending rehabilitation clinics, to paying fines, or doing community service.
Despite being famous for its coffee shops, cannabis in the Netherlands is not officially legal and is merely ‘tolerated’ by the government.
Licenced shops can sell up to 5g per person per day, but are not allowed to advertise their wares or sell other intoxicants such as alcohol.
Though Amsterdam’s coffee shops are famous, cannabis is officially illegal in the Netherlands with the drug merely ‘tolerated’ by the government
They are also not supposed to sell cannabis to foreigners, but enforcement of this rule is lax with more than half of visitors to Amsterdam saying the availability of the drug was a ‘very important’ reason for their trip.
Critics say this halfway house approach has produced the worst of both worlds, attracting anti-social behaviour and drug tourism whilst also helping to fund gangs which are largely responsible for commercial cultivation.