Germany legalizes cannabis for personal use

Marijuana campaigners in Germany lit celebratory joints on Monday as the country liberalized rules on cannabis to allow possession of small amounts.

The German Cannabis Association, which campaigned for the new law, staged a “smoke-in” at Berlin’s landmark Brandenburg Gate when the law took effect at midnight. Other public consumption events were scheduled throughout the country, including one in front of the Cologne cathedral and others in Hamburg, Regensburg and Dortmund.

The new law legalizes possession by adults of up to 25 grams of marijuana for recreational purposes and allows individuals to grow up to three plants on their own. That part of the legislation took effect Monday.

German residents age 18 and older will be allowed to join nonprofit “cannabis clubs” with a maximum 500 members each, starting July 1. Individuals will be allowed to buy up to 25 grams per day, or a maximum 50 grams per month — a figure limited to 30 grams for people under age 21. Membership in multiple clubs won’t be allowed.

Cannabis enthusiasts smoke joints legally at the Brandenburg Gate in Berlin.
Cannabis enthusiasts smoke marijuana legally near the Brandenburg Gate shortly after midnight on Monday in Berlin as Germany’s new cannabis law went into effect. (Michele Tantussi/Getty Images)

The clubs’ costs will be covered by membership fees, which are to be staggered according to how much marijuana members use.

The legislation also calls for an amnesty under which sentences for cannabis-related offences that will no longer be illegal are to be reviewed and in many cases reversed. Regional authorities worry that the judicial system will be overburdened by thousands of cases.

The law was pushed through by the current coalition of Chancellor Olaf Scholz’s Social Democrats, the Greens and the pro-business Free Democrats, which faced opposition from some of Germany’s federal states and the centre-right Christian Democrats.

Christian Democratic leader Friedrich Merz has vowed that his party will reverse the legislation if it wins national elections expected in the fall of 2025.

People gather near Berlin's Brandenburg Gate.
Germany’s new law legalizes possession by adults of up to 25 grams of marijuana for recreational purposes and allows individuals to grow up to three plants on their own. (Christian Mang/Reuters)

Leading garden stores surveyed by the dpa news agency indicated they would not be adding cannabis plants to their horticultural offerings, and the German Medical Association opposed the law, saying it could have “grave consequences” for the “developmental and life prospects of young people in our country.”

Germany is not the first European country to relax laws on cannabis consumption. The use of small quantities has been decriminalized in countries that include Spain, Malta, Belgium, Portugal, Luxembourg, the Czech Republic and the Netherlands, while more than 20 European countries have some form of legislation allowing the medicinal use of cannabis.

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