Legalization: Lauterbach: Putting cannabis on the market with the principle of safety first and foremost – politics

Health Minister Karl Lauterbach at an expert hearing on the preparation of a planned controlled sale of cannabis to adults in Germany. Photo: Kay Nietfeld / dpa

This has been a sensitive topic for years – and a major project of the coalition for traffic lights: the planned legalization of cannabis should now be launched.

Berlin – In the planned controlled release of cannabis to Germany, protection against damage to health should play a central role. The procedure is based on the principle of “safety first”, Federal Health Minister Karl Lauterbach (SPD) said at an expert hearing on Thursday as part of preparations for the legislative process in Berlin. There was no intention to downplay the importance of cannabis. However, the risks of the current practice are greater than what can be achieved by legalized imposition.

“The current, primarily repressive approach to cannabis has failed,” Lauterbach said. Among other things, he pointed to the increasing consumption, cannabis contamination and that the market has become more aggressive. The coalition of traffic lights has therefore firmly decided to carry out this “change of course”. The SPD, the Greens and the FDP agreed in a coalition agreement to introduce “controlled sale of cannabis to adults for recreational purposes in licensed stores.” The effects will be assessed after four years.

Lauterbach said, “It’s a long-awaited step for many.” The project is “anything but trivial”. Among other things, it is necessary to clarify aspects of juvenile protection, but also in criminal law, tax law or road traffic law. Based on expert assessments, a document on key issues should be presented in the fall, and a draft law by the end of the year, “so that we can start the legislative process next year.”

Lauterbach spoke at the last of a total of five hearings called “Cannabis – But Certainly”, organized by Federal Drug Commissioner Burkhard Blienert (SPD) in various aspects. Blienert said the paradigm shift in drug policy is now becoming concrete. The motto is: “Help and protection instead of punishment.”

The closing event focused on international experiences with legalized cannabis taxes. For example, Dominique Mendiola from the competent authority reported on regulations in the US state of Colorado – for example on product traceability, storage, packaging labels, containers, maximum portion sizes or theft protection.

Lauterbach said of the road planned in this country that he does not want cannabis consumption to spread. However, according to other experiences, this is not to be assumed. “It must always be borne in mind that cannabis – which is also regularly used for recreational purposes – is associated with health risks.” But it is about “controlled quality” and especially about youth protection.

“Consuming cannabis is no small thing for young people, and especially for children, and can ruin a life before it really started,” the minister said given the disruptions, for example in school success and training. There is no need to send a message that cannabis could be a lifestyle drug.

About four million adults currently use cannabis, Lauterbach explained. There is a large black market and organized crime in these areas. In addition, impurities can be observed, some of which are also added to help people convert from cannabis to other drugs. Counseling and education also need to be stepped up – not only with regard to cannabis, but also with the dangers of alcohol and nicotine.

Lauterbach reiterated that as a doctor and scientist he had long believed he would not legalize cannabis. He changed his mind in the past two years. “Moderate cannabis consumption, well-insured, quality and crime-free is something that must be accepted and is part of modern society.”


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