Cannabis is a banned substance in many countries around the world, and while many have taken stances to allow for the medical use of the plant, there are few countries who have taken to the idea of outright legalization of cannabis. For Germany, however, things could begin to change in the coming years as one of their federal states – Berlin – attempts to take a shot at decriminalizing cannabis. Berlin is already known as an easy place to buy marijuana, and small time dealers and people holding personal amounts are rarely punished by law – and their hope is to make the law reflect the reality that they are living in.
“The legal code is decided at the federal level, and this is about a local attempt to try to do things differently,” Plenert told DW. “The Intoxicants Law provides for such experiments. You can apply for exceptions, although the Minister of Health also has influence over the final decision. The state of Berlin has far broader possibilities than a city district in terms of setting up a pilot project. We can make a far more powerful appeal for an exception.”
While this would not be a move towards completely legalizing cannabis yet and it would make no permanent changes, it would enact a pilot program that could lead to both of those outcomes. The three political parties – the Social Democrats, the Greens and the Left Party – have all decided that it is the right direction to try and go and they will have to seek approval from the Minister of Health before being able to move forward with a change in the laws, due to cannabis’ federal status as an illegal drug.
“This is a pilot project with limits,” Plenert says. “It’s an attempt to advance the discussion about how things could be different. It won’t have a massive effect on the market for drugs as a whole. But as with other pilot projects concerning drugs, it’s a chance to show politicians and the press that the topic isn’t such a big deal. And that could kick-start larger changes.”
Berlin is already one of the most progressive cities in Germany and this could help them pave the way for marijuana reform throughout Europe – one federal state, and then one country, at a time. The pilot program would basically allow a controlled distribution of cannabis, as sort of a social experiment. If all goes well, then Berlin could be the first place in Germany to see true reform of cannabis policies.