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Continuous dispute over the right to be intoxicated

NEW ISENBURG. Is cannabis legalized in Germany? Since the Greens introduced their draft cannabis control law to the Bundestag a few months ago, which is supposed to enable the trade and possession of the drug, a heated debate has flared up among supporters and opponents of legalization.

Meanwhile, some districts and city-states want to create facts: In Bremen, Hamburg and Berlin there are initiatives with the aim of legally acquiring marijuana in pharmacies or coffee shops in the future.

In Germany, the cultivation, manufacture, trade, import, export, supply and sale of cannabis are generally punishable. The Narcotics Act only provides for exceptions for the medical use of cannabis and the processing of fiber hemp varieties with greatly reduced THC content.

In contrast, the consumption of drugs is not prohibited in Germany, as it is legally considered to be self-harm without punishment.

Long resistance to prohibition

Cannabis Legalization: Colorado leads the way

The US state of Colorado made history with the legalization of marijuana. Since January 1, 2014, residents of Colorado have been able to legally purchase the drug in stores for the first time in US history. A minimum age of 21 is required.

The law allows the purchase of one ounce (about 28 grams) of marijuana. This only applies to citizens of Colorado, US citizens of other states have to be content with a quarter ounce (seven grams) of marijuana. The use of marijuana in public remains prohibited.

The law goes back to a popular initiative ("Colorado Amendment 64") to legalize and regulate cannabis as an intoxicant analogous to alcohol. 55.32 percent of the citizens of Colorado voted for the legalization of the drug in 2012, 44.68 percent against. Previously, the purchase of marijuana in Colorado - as in 20 other US states - was only possible for medical reasons.

In principle, cannabis has been prohibited by law in the USA since 1937, but more and more states are writing their own laws - mostly as a result of popular initiatives. In the US state of Washington, for example, the purchase of up to an ounce of cannabis is allowed, but unlike in Colorado, home cultivation is prohibited there. Alaska and Oregon also voted in a referendum in November 2014 to legalize the possession and sale of cannabis in small quantities. (smi)

There has been resistance to the ban on cannabis for years. Criminal lawyers like the Bremen lawyer Lorenz Böllinger even consider the current legal situation to be unconstitutional. "The basic right to freedom of action provides that we can harm ourselves," argues Böllinger.

"There is therefore a right to be intoxicated, and this right must not be undermined by the state." The Bochum criminologist Thomas Feltes takes the view that the legalization of cannabis would dry up the black market and thus deprive organized crime of the basis.

"The prohibition policy in the field of cannabis has completely failed", state the Greens in their "draft cannabis control law" and justify their assessment, among other things, with the fact that cannabis is the most frequently used illegal drug.

"In Germany alone, according to estimates, 2.3 million people of legal age use cannabis. 22.2 percent of 15- and 16-year-old schoolchildren have consumed cannabis."

The illegal trade in marijuana could not be effectively controlled, with the result that contaminated cannabis products and those with synthetically increased active ingredient content would also be sold. After the Greens, the FDP has also spoken out in favor of the liberalization of drug laws.

At their federal party conference in Berlin in mid-May, 62 percent of the delegates voted for cannabis legalization under strict conditions. In future, it should be possible to sell marijuana as a stimulant in licensed shops, but only to consumers of legal age and after adequate education.

The current legal situation, according to the FDP, criminalizes users, leaves addicts alone and punishes them with penalties "which make them even more immersed in the drug scene".

The Liberals advocate taxing cannabis like cigarettes and using the additional income and savings in the judiciary and police for measures to protect minors and prevent drugs.

Left wants legalization

In addition to the liberals, the left also advocate the legalization of cannabis. With Joachim Pfeiffer, the economic policy spokesman for the CDU in the Bundestag, a Union politician recently spoke out in favor of the regulated release of cannabis for the first time.

Pfeiffer has published a statement with his Green colleague Dieter Janecek in which both declare the goals of the currently applicable cannabis ban to have failed and refer to the successes of other countries in liberalizing and regulating the market, which were not least reflected in the bubbling tax revenue.

However, Pfeiffer's initiative was mostly rejected by his own party. "A purely economic policy approach does not go far enough in this debate," said the health policy spokesman for the Union parliamentary group, Jens Spahn.

"With the argument that this is the way to fight the black market and collect taxes, one could also justify the legalization of heroin."

But Spahn is ready to talk: "Of course you can talk about whether the possession of small amounts of cannabis can be given uniform nationwide exemption from punishment in order not to criminalize the consumer. But that is different from comprehensive legalization."

Size strictly against approval

Federal Minister of Health Hermann Gröhe (CDU) strictly rejects the approval of cannabis, because he fears that this would, above all, minimize the health consequences of cannabis consumption.

The drug commissioner of the federal government, Marlene Mortler from the CSU, is in the same horn: If cannabis is legalized for adults, children would also get this drug more easily.

In the SPD, the topic is still largely covered. Karl Lauterbach, doctor and deputy parliamentary group leader of the SPD, can imagine treating pain patients with cannabis, but warns against "legalizing cannabis through the back door".

His group colleague Burkhard Blienert, on the other hand, thinks that a regulated release of cannabis could at least dry out the black market. And the Juso federal chairman Johanna Uekermann recently called on the SPD chairman Gabriel to launch his own initiative: "Cannabis should finally be legal. Therefore, dear Sigmar, relax and let's do this together."

In Bremen, at least, the SPD and the Greens agreed in their joint coalition negotiations to apply to the Federal Institute for Drugs and Medicine (BfArM) for a model test with the aim of allowing cannabis to be sold in a controlled manner at dispensing points such as pharmacies.

This has the advantage that consumers can also receive professional advice there. The model is a model test in the Berlin district of Friedrichshain-Kreuzberg, where in future four to five coffee shops based on the Dutch model are to be sold to a limited number of consumers in four to five coffee shops based on the Dutch model.

Curb rampant crime

A corresponding application was recently submitted to the BfArM. His decision could have a signal effect. The Hamburg district of Altona-Nord Sternschanze is also planning a model test for controlled delivery. This is to curb the rampant drug crime.

Incidentally, cannabis should be more easily accessible for seriously ill patients in the future, and even more: According to the will of drug commissioner Marlene Mortler, the consumption of marijuana for chronically ill pain patients should even be covered by health insurance from next year.

In a representative Infratest survey, 90 percent of German citizens were in favor of the release of cannabis to sick people, but 59 percent are against a general release of the drug. The 18 to 29 year olds are an exception, 55 percent of whom are in favor of legalizing cannabis.

Also read:Cannabis: Effective medicine for the seriously ill Cannabis: Young stoners are particularly at risk of addiction