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Berlin is going to try a groundbreaking pilot scheme after a coalition of political parties agreed to push for partial decriminalization of cannabis.
Berlin cross-party movement puts semi-legal marijuana on trial in a scientifically designed social experiment
The Independent reports on a pilot scheme formed as part of the coalition negotiations to govern the city. “Controlled distribution of cannabis to adults” was agreed upon by the capital’s Social Democrats, the Greens and the Left Party. The initial effects will be limited, but marijuana legalization advocates are still quite pleased.
The capital is one of 16 federal states in Germany allowed to introduce its own laws. The Berlin decision comes after Nevada, California and Massachusetts voted “yes” to cannabis on 8 November 2016.
Marijuana is illegal in Germany
Marijuana is illegal in Germany, although people caught with less than 15 grams are often not prosecuted. The Friedrichshain-Kreuzberg district of Berlin’s earlier effort to legalize controlled cannabis sales was foiled by the Federal Institute for Drugs and Medical Devices’ Federal Intoxicants Law, which bans cannabis.
The program is a step forward
Green politician Benedikt Lux was quoted in the press as saying that the three parties had agreed to seek a scientifically monitored pilot project for the controlled distribution of cannabis to adults. This might be a step forward towards the legalization of marijuana in Germany.
Max Plenert of the German Hemp Association explains this is an attempt by the city of Berlin to do things differently, as the legal code is decided at a federal level. The Intoxicants Law provides for such experiments as the pilot project. Applications for exceptions may be submitted, even though the Minister of Health also has influence over the final decision. He says the state of Berlin has more leverage than a city district in terms of appealing for an exception.
Those advocating for legalization of marijuana say they are just trying to bring the law in line with reality especially in a city like Berlin where cannabis is not difficult to obtain, and small-time dealings mostly go unpunished.
Marijuana dealing is an open secret
Marijuana dealing is an open secret, and most local residents don’t particularly object to the dealers. What do the dealers think of the pilot project? Many of them are Rastafarians from Africa and they smoke weed. They don’t think it’s a drug like cocaine. As Bobby from Cameroon says, “I sell marijuana. I’m not a drug dealer.”
Plenert says the pilot project is very limited. It is merely an attempt to provoke debate on how things could be handled differently. It won’t have a massive impact on the drug market. It is just a chance to show the media and politicians alike that it is not such a big deal as they thought. This change in perception is what could kick start bigger change.
Enough progress to show change
German cannabis advocates feel Germany could follow in the footsteps of American advocacy, which recently led to legalization of marijuana in four more states, allowing people over 21 recreational use.
“I think we’ve made enough progress in Germany to recognize that the status quo doesn’t really work,” Plenert said. “If individual federal states want to experiment with something different, let’s give it a try.”