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Germany: Debate about cannabis legalization is still raging despite government fast-tracking reform

Last Friday, Bavaria’s Health Minister Klaus Holetschek, a member of the CSU, called on the federal German Chancellor, Olaf Scholz (of the SPD), to stop plans to legalize cannabis. In a speech made in Munich, Holetschek based his arguments on a speech that the Chancellor had recently made in Magdeburg that the government will continue to press forward on legalization plans despite some evidence that, per Scholz, “people suffer psychological damage” and “ruin their lives” by using cannabis. “If the Chancellor knows the major health risks of cannabis, he should now make use of his authority to issue directives and put the legalization project on hold,” Holetschek said.

The attack appears to be, beyond a direct attack on cannabis legalization specifically, a political attempt to build on citizen protests against Scholz that occurred in Magdeburg last week. These are being prompted by fears over inflation and rising energy prices beyond generalized criticism of the leadership of the Traffic Light Coalition itself.

Regardless, Holetschek is also the most senior politician so far to criticize the idea of cannabis legalization. What does this mean for German reform? 

There is much talk of a conservative backlash in Germany this fall as energy inflation begins to bite. That said, it is uncertain how successful this will be, particularly as the current government has been signaling all summer that it will continue to roll out a package of incentives and other help to minimize the economic pain felt by Germans. The widely praised (and used) $9 a month train ticket is just one of these initiatives. So is a $300 grant to taxpayers from German utilities to offset higher energy prices (which has already been distributed). The fact that cannabis legalization has been apparently added to issues to criticize the current government over, by a center-right politician who seems to be trying to score points against the ruling parties more generally is, as a result, far from a surprise. 

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