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Germany legalizes recreational cannabis use

Today, after decades of debate, the Bundestag has given the green light to a major project of the traffic light coalition: the legalization of cannabis. The market will be tightly regulated to prevent easy access. Original plans for licensed shops were scrapped due to EU worries about drug exports. Instead, non-commercial cannabis clubs will grow and distribute limited amounts. The measure still requires approval from the Bundesrat, the German Council of States, where it is expected to pass without significant hurdles.

The law proposes a controlled release of cannabis with various regulations. Adults over 18 would be allowed to possess up to 25 grams of cannabis for personal use, with the option to cultivate up to three plants at home. Smoking cannabis in many public spaces will also become legal, expectedly from 1 April.

From July 1, cannabis would also be available in licensed not-for-profit clubs with no more than 500 members – all of whom would have to be adults. Only club members would be allowed to consume their output.

However, there are restrictions. Public consumption would be prohibited near schools and sports facilities, and minors caught with cannabis would be required to participate in intervention and prevention programs.

The effectiveness of the law, particularly in protecting minors and reducing consumption, remains a subject of debate. Despite opposition concerns about potential harm and fueling drug use, the law passed with 407 votes to 226. Four lawmakers abstained from Friday's vote.

While Health Minister Karl Lauterbach believes the law will curb the black market and improve youth protection, medical professionals warn of the drug's addictive potential and its impact on brain development, particularly in young users.

Concerns also arise regarding the potential strain on the justice system due to the proposed amnesty provision and the need for manual review of past cannabis-related cases. Additionally, there are doubts about the ability of the law to address the concerns of the federal government effectively.

Some states, like Bavaria, are expected to slow down the process. Health Minister Karl Lauterbach will address community questions about the proposed legalization in a live stream on Instagram.

Germany becomes the third European country, following Malta and Luxembourg, to legalize recreational cannabis, removing it from the list of banned substances. Unlike the Netherlands, where drug possession is illegal but tolerated in some municipalities' coffee shops, rules on cannabis vary across different regions in countries like Australia and the US.

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