Should New Zealand decriminalize cannabis

Legalization out of sight

Those who first condemn cannabis and then tap the keg in the next beer tent are applying double standards, "said SPD chairwoman Saskia Esken recently on the question of the legalization of cannabis. In the German reality, this distinction is still maintained. The ban does not lead to a decrease in consumption. In 2015, almost three times as many German citizens between the ages of 18 and 59 had consumed cannabis at least once in their life than in 1995. Although the flimsy arguments for maintaining the ban are crumbling on the economic, social and criminal law-relevant side, approval in Germany still seems to be always unthinkable.

The easing of laws in EU member states, which led to the decriminalization of consumers in Portugal or the Netherlands, does not change this. On the contrary, German authorities enforce the THC zero limit even more strictly. More and more cannabis-related criminal proceedings are being initiated, in 2018 there were over 13,000 more than in the previous year. Around 80 percent of these proceedings are not carried out against dealers: According to the criminal statistics of the Federal Criminal Police Office, almost 500 criminal proceedings are opened against cannabis users every day.

An example of this disproportionate hardship is the ongoing proceedings against the operator of a Braunschweig hemp bar who are charged with selling cannabis tea. According to the public prosecutor's office, the tea is enough to cause intoxication when misused. In view of the fact that comparable products are legally available online, the required sentence of 2.5 years without parole contradicts uniform standards for the hemp product market - and is against a population, almost 60 percent of whom are in favor of “owning small quantities of cannabis should no longer be prosecuted for personal consumption «, difficult to justify.

The strict procedure against cannabis is also evident in the area of ​​medical dispensing. Since 2017 it has been possible for "seriously ill people" to obtain cannabis on prescription. However, there is a lack of implementation. Many doctors are not adequately informed, and there is a lack of sufficient supply, as cannabis has so far been imported to a large extent.

The way to get there was also fought over. Twenty years ago, the Federal Constitutional Court issued its first decision on its use as a medicinal product, but it was not easier for patients to get medical cannabis. This was also due to the health insurance companies, which did not want to cover the costs of the treatment.

In May 2005, the Federal Administrative Court ruled for the first time to a plaintiff suffering from MS and approved the use of cannabis for therapeutic purposes. Since then there have been several legislative initiatives from the ranks of the Left Party, the Greens and the FDP. A ruling in April 2016 that granted a patient permission to grow their own after fifteen years was also groundbreaking.

If cultivation and distribution were legal in Germany, this would also have economic advantages: In November 2018, the economist Justus Haucap published a study that showed that the Federal Republic of Germany is missing out on tax and social security contributions of around 2.7 billion euros annually as a result of the cannabis ban.

After all, the issue of legalization seems to have finally given up its niche existence. In addition to Esken, Norbert Walter-Borjans and the Green Chairwoman Katrin Göring-Eckardt also support the approval of cannabis. The new drug commissioner Daniela Ludwig is unimpressed. In some things she is a bit more progressive than her predecessor Marlene Mortler. So she met representatives of the German Hemp Association in November 2019 and was ready to discuss ways of an alternative drug policy. Still, she believes legalization is unlikely in the next ten years.

What is only being discussed in Germany is becoming a reality in other countries: In Italy, home-growing has not been a criminal offense since December and a referendum on easing the cannabis ban will take place in New Zealand this year.

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