Germany's health minister on Wednesday unveiled plans to decriminalise the possession of up to 30 grammes of cannabis and allow the sale of the substance to adults for recreational purposes in a controlled market.
A question mark remains over whether the plan approved by the Cabinet will go ahead because the government first wants to be sure that it is compatible with European Union law.
Health Minister Karl Lauterbach said it will only go ahead with legislation if that is the case.
The plan calls for the sale of cannabis to adults at licensed outlets, and the aim is to combat organised crime and the black market, Lauterbach said. He added that the government intends to regulate the market tightly.
Under the proposed legislation, growing cannabis at home would be allowed to a limited extent (up to three plants) and sales will be possible in licensed stores and potentially in pharmacies. The sale of medical cannabis has been allowed in German pharmacies since 2016.
The use of cannabis would only be allowed for adults, while it remains legally prohibited for anyone under the age of 18.
According to Lauterbach, four million people in Germany used cannabis last year and a quarter of all 18- to 24-year-olds in the country have used it.
Advertising to promote the consumption of cannabis won't be allowed.
Liberalising cannabis laws
Legalising controlled sales of cannabis is one of a series of reforms outlined in last year's coalition deal between the three socially liberal parties that make up Chancellor Olaf Scholz’s government.
They said the plan would ensure quality control while also protecting young people, and agreed that the "social effects" of the new legislation would be examined after four years.
The reform, which Lauterbach said will likely not take effect before 2024 if in line with EU laws, would make Germany one of the most liberal countries in Europe in terms of legislation around cannabis.
"This would be, on the one hand, the most liberal cannabis liberalisation in Europe, and, on the other hand, it would also be the most tightly regulated market," said Lauterbach, adding that the reform could be "a model" for Europe.
The government will not set a price, said Lauterbach, but will aim at setting quality requirements.
Among other liberalising plans, the government has removed from Germany’s criminal code a ban on doctors "advertising" abortion services.
The government also wants to scrap 40-year-old legislation that requires transsexual people to get a psychological assessment and a court decision before officially changing gender, a process that often involves intimate questions. It is due to be replaced with a new "self-determination law".