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Berlin To Legalize Marijuana?

Picture of Lily Cichanowicz
Updated: 24 November 2016
Marijuana is being legalized in cities and states around the world. There seems to be no end in sight for this trend, and Berlin may just be the next on the docket. Known already for its lax attitude towards partying, drugs, and sex, this won’t come as a surprise for many.

In fact, it may actually be more shocking to consider that cannabis is still a criminalized drug in the city with little legal wiggle room for change. Alas, progress is gradual, and the current proposed legislation seeks to partially decriminalize it. The task of doing so in Berlin is a difficult one, primarily because cannabis is included within the Federal Intoxicants Law. Even with this in mind, however, advocates feel that Berlin has a better chance of making headway on the decriminalization process than anywhere else in Germany.

The drivers behind the endeavor are a coalition of liberal political parties including the Left Party, Berlin’s Social Democrats, and the Greens. This group of legislators found a clever loophole to the law. They want to begin the process with what Green Party leader and spokesperson, Benedikt Lux, calls a ‘scientifically monitored pilot project for the controlled distribution of cannabis to adults’. They feel this is an important first step in one day legalizing the drug.

Further, on a state level it is likely that Berlin could rally support for making an exception to this federal law, granted that the experiments yield the right results. Max Plenert of the German Hemp association remarks, ‘The legal code is decided at the federal level, and this is about a local attempt to try to do things differently’.

While it’s easy to get muddled in the details and technicalities, the present situation in Berlin already tells a different story about the reception and commonality of marijuana. Most Berliners can attest to the fact that small-scale drug dealing is quite common in places like Kreuzberg’s Görlitzer Park and elsewhere. This is the case so much that most locals are generally unfazed by the activity.

Many hardly even consider it a ‘drug’ in the classic sense, with all of the usual stigma attached. Even despite the city’s best efforts to eradicate the dealers from these public spaces, they have remained and most don’t even bat a lash at their presence. What’s more is that there clearly exists a demand that keeps these men in business. Many of the dealers identify themselves as African Rastafarians, so even they are in support of legalization.

Currently, in Berlin no one caught with less than 15 grams of the drug are actually prosecuted, displaying the fact that the city has already placed legal enforcement low on the city’s priority list, despite the fact that it is included within the statues of the Federal Intoxicants Law.

Plenert summarizes the aims of the law within the existing context of Berlin, explaining that, ‘It’s an attempt to advance the discussion about how things could be different. 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’. There is no doubt that advocates for the drug, as well as its many users are quite excited about this nudge in what they feel is the right direction.