On Wednesday, the new “traffic light" coalition presented their plans for Germany. Under the motto “Dare to make progress", the parties presented a 177-page document that includes plans to introduce the controlled distribution of cannabis in Germany.

Germany to commence with sale of cannabis
Germany’s coalition parties - the SPD, the Greens and the FDP - have set out their vision for Germany in the post-Merkel era. Among other things, the parties’ coalition contract included provisions to ease the laws around the personal, recreational use of cannabis.

The contract stipulates that the new coalition “will introduce the controlled distribution of cannabis to adults for consumption purposes in licensed stores.” The document goes on to state that this measure will “control the quality, prevent the circulation of contaminated substances and ensure the protection of minors.”

Under current German law, cannabis plants can be grown, sold, owned, imported and exported. While private, recreational use of the drug is banned (although police do tend to turn a blind eye towards small amounts), medical cannabis has been legal since 2017.

Do the health benefits outweigh the risks?
It is hoped that the government regulation of cannabis will reduce the amount sold by street dealers, which is how recreational users most commonly purchase the drug in Germany. The German Cannabis Association has warned of the dangers of buying drugs from street dealers, suggesting that cannabis bought in this way is often mixed with other substances, such as sand, hairspray, talcum powder, glass and lead. Experts have also suggested that marijuana is sometimes contaminated with heroin or synthetic cannabinoids, which can have severe side effects.

The director of the German Cannabis Organisation, Georg Wurth, has said that the legalisation of marijuana is unlikely to lead to a significant rise in consumption and subsequent unexpected health problems. “Since a significant increase in consumption is not to be expected, (an) increase in the various problems caused by consumption is not to be expected either,” he said.

However, the move to legalise the sale of cannabis has drawn sharp criticism from politicians and health advocates. The CDU’s advisor on drug policy, Stephan Pilsinger, has accused the new coalition parties of running an “experiment on the health of our society and our young people."

Experts have warned that the use of marijuana amongst young people can affect the central nervous system, which can lead to psychosis and schizophrenia. Sustained use of the drug has been linked to respiratory diseases and testicular cancer.

Cannabis: An economic lifeline for Germany?
As of yet, no decision has been made regarding the sale of recreational cannabis in Germany. The coalition wants to regulate the distribution of the drug, so as to better control who can buy the drug and the supply. So far, it has been suggested that cannabis could be sold in tobacco stores, pharmacies or even coffee shops, like those found in Amsterdam.

Legalising marijuana also carries a financial incentive for Germany; a report by the Heinrich-Heine University in Düsseldorf found that legalising cannabis could generate around 4,7 billion euros every year in public funds, as well as create around 27.000 jobs.

Wurth has argued that the prohibition of marijuana actually costs German taxpayers, as billions are spent every year on prosecuting those who deal the drug illegally. He also stated that the ban on cannabis “promotes organised crime by giving it exclusive access to a market worth billions.”