‘Wir paffen das!’: from now on, cannabis is legal in Germany

‘Wir paffen das!’: from now on, cannabis is legal in Germany
‘Wir paffen das!’: from now on, cannabis is legal in Germany
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At 4:20 p.m.: Zündung, inflammation. This is what it says in the announcement of the Hamburg event in honor of it Legalization Day. But hardly anyone can wait for that, now that it is finally allowed: at three o’clock on Monday afternoon, the sweet smell of cannabis is already wafting thickly through the starting rain on a hill opposite the port of Hamburg.

“After decades of looking over our shoulders, this burden is now finally lifted from us,” said Andreas Gerhold (61), chairman of the Hamburg Cannabis Social Club, one of the oldest lobby clubs for legalization in Germany. “It’s still a small step now, but for us it’s a huge leap. Wir paffen das!”

What Gerhold calls a small step is a revolution in German cannabis policy. From April 1, the government will gradually legalize the entire chain: from production to sales and consumption. Cultivation and sale will be legal to a limited extent from July, and smoking cannabis is already allowed. “Just not in the immediate vicinity of a minor, so make sure there is no child standing next to you when you light one up,” Gerhold warns, to the amusement of his audience.

That is more than a hundred on this Monday afternoon at Easter, despite the drizzle that is gradually developing into a downpour. Carpenter, marketing manager, DJ, mostly male, almost all young to somewhere in middle age. “Now we have the sun, and then we can legally smoke a joint in the park,” says Zora Grille (27), filmmaker. “A lot of hotter then drink.”

Not like the Netherlands

Smoking a joint in the park. It is reminiscent of the long-standing Dutch tolerance policy – but that is not how it will work here. In fact, when German Health Minister Karl Lauterbach first announced his legalization plans at the end of 2022, he was asked whether Germany had learned something from the Netherlands. Yes, said Lauterbach: “We have learned from the Netherlands how we don’t want to do it.”

Until the point where the lighter clicks, Germany therefore organizes everything differently. Adult cannabis enthusiasts are now allowed to purchase a maximum of 50 grams of cannabis per month and have three plants for their own use at home. Up to 21 years old, a maximum of 30 grams applies. The cannabis is sold by non-profit associations, with a maximum of five hundred members each. Only those who live in Germany can become a member. These cannabis clubs grow their own crops under government supervision. They can start in July.

The policy serves three purposes: removing cannabis production and sales from the black market, combating drug crime, and even reducing consumption in the long run. According to Germany, fully commercializing cannabis production and sales, as a number of American states have done, will lead to more consumption. Allowing the sale and consumption of cannabis but leaving production to the black market, as the Netherlands has been doing for decades, fuels crime.

A ‘smoke in’ at the Brandenburg Gate in Berlin.Image REUTERS

A very first random sample at Hamburg’s Balduin steps, a notorious dealer location near the Reeperbahn, provides anecdotal support for Minister Lauterbach’s view. Enthusiasts now pay 10 euros for 0.8 grams of weed. “It will of course be much cheaper for people if they can plant cannabis themselves,” says Tawara, a 37-year-old cannabis seller from Gambia. “That will put pressure on the street price. So bad for me business.”

Commercialization

The question is how bad the new policy is for Tawara’s business. Cannabis club chairman Gerhold talked about “a small step”, because according to him – and according to every other cheerful weed smoker today – there are still many things wrong with the new law. While the conservative Christian Democratic opposition has fought tooth and nail against legalization, and is even threatening to reverse things if it – very likely – wins the elections in 2025, the policy does not go far enough for enthusiasts.

Take those clubs with members. That’s a lot of hassle. You have to join, be involved in some way with “communal cultivation of cannabis for personal consumption”, and then the government is also watching. “We do not require alcohol drinkers to drink every sip in association,” says Daniel (29).

And then there is the question of what consequences such a membership could have for members in the long term – Daniel does not want his surname to appear in the newspaper because he cannot estimate how the legal and social view of cannabis will develop. “For example, we don’t yet know how traffic laws will be amended,” says filmmaker Florian Kreker (27). “Will I be arrested every time because the police know that I belong to a cannabis club?”

The solution according to Daniel, Gerhold and other enthusiasts: commercial sales. Otherwise, some people, especially casual smokers, will continue to go to the black market. The German government is indeed looking at that option, to a limited extent, but as yet nothing is known about it except that the EU would probably block it.

The only one who seems to know for sure what the policy will do to his position is dealer Tawara. At the stairs he and his colleagues sell four types of drugs, he says: weed, coke, ecstasy and speed. He says he wants nothing to do with the last three. “I know that hard drugs are destroying society.”

But what is the case now? Four years after he arrived in Italy by boat from Libya and was refused a residence permit there, Tawara’s Italian lawyer – paid with income obtained from the Balduin Stairs in Hamburg – successfully completed his objection: in January, Tawara received an Italian residence permit.

So at least as far as this dealer is concerned, Health Minister Karl Lauterback is right. When cannabis becomes legally available in July and his revenue model in Germany disappears, Tawara will close his business and disappear to Italy.

The legislation in Belgium

Since the 2003 change in the law, a distinction has been made between cannabis and other illegal drugs for adults. If an adult is in possession of a small amount of cannabis for personal use, a simplified report will be drawn up when possession is established. But the standard is: cannabis is prohibited. Possession of cannabis for personal use means: maximum amount of three grams / one cultivated plant. (Source: VAD)

The article is in Dutch

Tags: Wir paffen das cannabis legal Germany

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