30.06.2022, Berlin: Karl Lauterbach (SPD), Bundesminister für Gesundheit, spricht bei der Expertenanhörung zur Vorbereitung der geplanten kontrollierten Abgabe von Cannabis an Erwachsene in Deutschland. Foto: Kay Nietfeld/dpa +++ dpa-Bildfunk +++

Protection against health damage is to play a central role in the planned controlled release of cannabis in Germany. The procedure is based on the principle of “safety first”, said Federal Health Minister Karl Lauterbach (SPD) on Thursday at an expert hearing in preparation for the legislative process in Berlin.

It was not intended to downplay cannabis. However, the risks of the current practice are greater than what can be achieved with a legalized levy.

“The current, primarily repressive approach to cannabis has failed,” said Lauterbach. Among other things, he pointed to increasing consumption, more cannabis contamination and that the market had become more aggressive.

The traffic light coalition has therefore firmly resolved to carry out this “change of course”. SPD, Greens and FDP have agreed in the coalition agreement to introduce a “controlled sale of cannabis to adults for recreational purposes in licensed shops”. The effects will be evaluated after four years.

Lauterbach said: “It is a long-awaited step for many.” The project is “anything but trivial”. Among other things, aspects of the protection of minors need to be clarified, but also in the penal code, in tax law or in road traffic law.

Based on expert assessments, a key issues paper should be presented in the fall and a draft law by the end of the year, “so that we can then get started with the legislative process next year.”

Lauterbach spoke at the last of a total of five hearings entitled “Cannabis – but safe”, which the Federal Drug Commissioner Burkhard Blienert (SPD) had organized on various aspects.

Blienert said that 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 levies. Dominique Mendiola from the responsible authority reported on the regulations in the US state of Colorado – for example on the traceability of products, storage, labeling of packs, containers, maximum portion sizes or protection against theft.

Lauterbach said about the path planned in this country: It was not wanted to expand cannabis consumption. According to other experiences, however, this is not to be assumed. “It must always be taken into account that cannabis – also regularly used for recreational purposes – is associated with health risks.” But it is about “controlled quality” and especially the protection of young people.

“Cannabis consumption is no small thing for young people and especially for children and can destroy a life before it has really started,” said the minister with a view to impairments, for example in performance in school and training. The message should not be sent that cannabis could be a lifestyle drug.

Around 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 convert people from cannabis to other drugs.

Advice and education should also be strengthened – not just with a view to cannabis, but also about the dangers of alcohol and nicotine.