Stoner Symphony

Crumbling SPD Support Threatens Future of Germany’s CanG Bill

Germany’s Cannabis Act (CanG) is entering increasingly uncertain territory as support within the coalition’s largest party crumbles, and criticism of the bill begins to surface on multiple fronts.

Just before the parliamentary Christmas break, the final reading of the CanG bill was scuppered at the last minute by dissenting voices within the Social Democrat Party (SPD), in what the industry described as ‘utterly surprising’ and ‘frustrating’.

Over the past week, more SPD voices have come out in opposition not just to the bill specifically, but to the notion of cannabis liberalisation itself.

Meanwhile a scathing report on the bill, commissioned by interior ministers and coordinated by the Federal Criminal Police Office (BKA), was made public this week, raising serious doubts over the practicality of the proposals.

What happened?

Earlier this week, senior SPD politician Katja Mast responded to growing concerns around the bill’s status, emphasising that her party is continuing its efforts to pass the law ‘in a timely manner’, adding: “We’re sticking to that.”

These growing concerns have been driven by what the FDP’s drug policy spokesperson  Kristine Lütke described as the ‘SPD’s internal disagreements’ that have been ‘dragging on for weeks now’, causing ‘completely unnecessary delays in the process’.

In late November 2023, the SPD announced publicly that the coalition had now ‘agreed on the cannabis law’, and that the second and final readings were set to take place in ‘mid-December’.

This new date, already pushed back multiple times, was set to see the decriminalisation and home cultivation take effect from March/April 2024, with the rollout of cultivation associations to follow in July 2024.

Much to the industry’s surprise, the bill put forward by the SPD’s Health Minister Karl Lauterbach was removed from the ballot due to dissent within the party, rather than cross-party bickering as many had feared.

While the reasons behind the unexpected dissent were kept relatively quiet, it was suggested that while the ‘specialist politicians’ tasked with working on the bill were in agreement, no such consensus had been made in the rest of the party.

SPD speaks out

Going beyond the specifics of the bill, she raised concerns about liberalising cannabis access as a concept, arguing that in her experience as a judge she ‘knows very well that cannabis consumption… is particularly dangerous’.

She went on to level a torrent of criticisms of Lauterbach’s bill. These included concerns over the amount of responsibility given to volunteer club chairmen, worries over who will monitor and police home cultivation, alongside critical points also raised by the BKA earlier in the week.

Last week, SPD MP and member of the health committee Nezahat Baradari, also came out publicly in opposition to CanG, arguing that ‘cannabis still significantly damages the brain up to the age of 25’.

On Tuesday, Süddeutsche Zeitung published a similar report, stating that the number of SPD politicians in opposition was piling up, specifically within the interior and transport.

“It is absolutely unclear whether this will work out,” an unnamed party member said, casting doubt on whether a majority of support for the bill would be found.

Sebastian Fiedler, SPD, who was one of the few politicians to speak out against the bill in December, told the Rheinische Post: “I know a large number of colleagues in my parliamentary group who share this view.”

Despite pressure by the Greens and FDP to push through the bill quickly, further criticism is being levelled at the bill from the historically hostile CDU/CSU, and now the country’s law enforcement agencies.

BKA report

Last year, the Federal Ministry of the Interior commissioned a confidential report, coordinated by the BKA, in order to explore the real-world implications and expectations on law enforcement and regulatory authorities if the bill was passed.

While this report has been available to ministers for some time, many of its findings were recently made public.

Its findings take issue with a fundamental principle of the bill, arguing that instead of freeing up law enforcement agencies time to focus on more serious crimes, they would ‘face additional tasks and expenses in the form of personnel and material costs’.

The report also points out that the government did not consider certain factors, such as the impact on continuing to fight organised crime related to cannabis.

The amount of extra money needed will depend on whether people are allowed to grow their own cannabis and on how strictly the police enforce rules about cannabis use, especially when it comes to driving.

The report suggests that more police checks on drivers might be necessary to make it clear that driving under the influence of cannabis is still against the law.

The Federal Ministry of Transport has now reportedly established a working group of experts, set to propose a limit of THC in the blood with which it is safe to drive by the end of March.

While a solid date for the second and final readings of the bill is yet to be confirmed, according to Tagesspiegel, the plan is to pass the law after the budget negotiations in the session week from February 19th to 23rd, seeing it move to the Federal Council on March 22nd, though the latter are not required to approve it in order for it to become law.

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