Political unrest nearly half a world away is forcing Germany to temporarily shelve its plans to vote on the country’s landmark cannabis legalization measure. Due to the violent conflict in Israel and Gaza, German lawmakers are halting plans to vote on a bill to legalize marijuana, saying they may be able to take up cannabis reform legislation in the weeks ahead. However, some political figures suggest that it isn’t external conflict slowing cannabis legislation. It may be internal conflict and concerns that are delaying debate on the measure.
Is military conflict in the Middle East why Germany needs to pump the breaks on marijuana legalization, or are internal divisions in Germany’s political ranks holding up the milestone legislation?
German Lawmakers Delay Marijuana Legalization Bill Debate
In a surprising move, German lawmakers announced they would delay debate on Germany’s groundbreaking cannabis reform legislation due to the sudden and violent conflict between Israel and Hamas extremists in Gaza. Germany’s parliament, the Bundestag, was supposed to debate the cannabis reform measure on Friday. Instead, lawmakers say the debate must be postponed until at least next week. German political figures say the delay is due to the “global political situation.” However, some lawmakers say the move to delay debate on the measure came as a complete surprise, and there may be more to the story than just political unrest in the Middle East.
Thorsten Frei, a member of the minority Christan Democratic Union, says “internal concerns” may be more to blame than a foreign war. Interestingly, the delay comes shortly after cannabis opponents within the Federal Council announced they would attempt to derail the cannabis legalization movement. The group filed a motion to stall the measure. Still, that motion was rejected after failing to rally enough support to block the bill in Germany’s legislative body representing individual states.
The temporary delay could have significant political consequences by jeopardizing the broader legislative schedule as the holidays quickly approach. Legislators must enact reform by December 15th. If they cannot finish the job by that date, they cannot revisit the measure until February 2024. Yet, one political member of the Free Democratic Party said that a revised legislative schedule still puts the legislation in an excellent position to become law by the beginning of the year, and the delay should not jeopardize plans to enact meaningful cannabis reform in Germany. The new schedule puts the measure’s first reading in front of the Bundestag next week, with the Health Committee taking it up by November 6th. That puts the second and third readings on the measure on tap for November 16th.
What’s War Got to Do with It?
What does the conflict between Israel and Hamas have to do with legalizing cannabis in Germany? The answer needs to be clarified. At first, a notice published on the official Bundestag website mentions that discussing the cannabis reform measure was removed from Friday’s agenda. Still, the post did not offer a reason for the delay. A later statement was issued saying that state representatives were concerned about the financial consequences of control and enforcement that could be levied on states if the cannabis reform measure was to pass. The “control of cultivation associations” was one example provided by the concerned state representatives.
Germany’s federal government says it does not share state representatives’ concerns about the cost of the enforcement effort. The federal government suggests that states can slowly ramp up their personnel and material resource capacities over time. The estimated total of 3,000 cultivation associations does not come at all once. Instead, according to the federal government, that number will probably only be reached in five years, giving states plenty of time to adjust their enforcement resources accordingly. Decriminalization of cannabis may also lead to significant financial savings for states because of fewer criminal charges and prosecutions. Those saved funds could be funneled into monitoring grower associations and for addiction prevention.
Is the conflict in Israel and Gaza a convenient excuse for lawmakers to get their ducks in a row before finally tackling cannabis reform? Potentially. There is little information on why the conflict is blamed for stalling plans to debate cannabis reform. It could be a political move to stand in solidarity with those suffering in the Middle East. Earlier, Germany pledged its support to the Israeli military, vowing to help them crack down on the terrorist organization Hamas at home. Chancellor Olaf Scholz says Germany plans to issue a formal ban on activity by
or in support of Hamas, which the European Union already lists as a terror group. However, whether these measures or declarations impact the move towards cannabis reform seems vague.
Cannabis Reform a Long Time Coming
The cannabis reform movement in Germany has faced numerous stumbling blocks. A more robust cannabis legalization plan was shot down, in part, because of pushback from the European Union. To appease the European governing body, Germany scaled back its grand cannabis legalization plans, much to the dismay of marijuana advocates.
The current proposal seeking to legalize cannabis in Germany would allow adults to possess cannabis and cultivate up to three plants for personal use. Instead of retail facilities selling cannabis products, Germans must purchase cannabis from a social club. These social clubs can distribute marijuana to a limited number of members, up to 50 grams per month per member. Social club permits would be valid for up to seven years, and membership to a club must last at least two months. A summary of the legislation is available online. The German Health Minister wants to remind everyone that the cannabis reform measure, if passed, will be paired with an aggressive public education campaign about the potential risks of cannabis consumption.
Time will tell if German lawmakers can move cannabis legalization to the goal line in the coming weeks.