Political parties have formed a coalition in Berlin to rally for partial decriminalization of cannabis in one of the hippest cities in Europe, which could surely spread decriminalization across north Europe. Berlin’s Social Democrats, the Greens and the Left Party see an opportunity in decriminalizing the plant.
City newspapers quoted Green politician Benedikt Lux has saying the coalition had agreed to seek a “scientifically monitored pilot project for the controlled distribution of cannabis to adults.”
Advocates like Max Plenert of the German Hemp Association say this could mark a major step towards full decriminalization in Berlin.
“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.”
It’s a frosty Saturday morning, but despite the early hour, Görlitzer Park in Berlin’s Kreuzberg district is already full of mostly African men standing around in small groups. Marijuana dealing is such an open secret that it mocks the very word.
“I think it should be legalized,” Berlin marijuana dealer Bobby told DW, while smoking a joint. “Hey, we’re Rastafarians from Africa. We smoke weed. We don’t think it’s a drug like cocaine. I sell marijuana. I’m not a drug dealer.” The project is a mere pilot.
“It’s an attempt to advance the discussion about how things could be different,” Plenert says. “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.” In the US election eight of nine states with marijuana legislation on the ballots approved measures to regulate either medicinal or recreational cannabis.
“This creates pressure,” Plenert says. “California, which alone would be one of the largest industrialized nations in the world, has just legalized marijuana. And the US is a good example because it all started with the idea of cannabis as medicine. People saw images from Colorado and realized that the sky wasn’t falling in. Reporting on the topic became increasingly non-partisan, and the pressure (for legalization) rose.”
Germany’s Federal Intoxication stands in the way of Germany’s federal states enacting their own laws. But, advocates in Germany don’t think it would take long for the tide to turn.
“I think we’ve made enough progress in Germany to recognize that the status quo doesn’t really work,” he says. “And to say: If individual federal states want to experiment with something different, let’s give it a try.”