Over 120 German professors of criminal law are supporting an initiative to legalize cannabis. They have called on the Bundestag to discuss the issue. Merkel’s coalition is skeptical.
Around 3 million Germans regularly smoke marijuana. Some 14 million are estimated to have tried the drug at least once. It’s not punishable by law in Germany to use pot, but it is to sell and grow it.
Several legal experts believe that criminal prosecution of cannabis users doesn’t serve the desired purpose. Lorenz Bollinger, emeritus professor of criminal law at Bremen University, founded the ‘Schildow Circle’ two years ago. It now consists of 122 criminal law professors who are campaigning to legalize the sale and ownership of marijuana.
In November 2013, the group called on the lower house of parliament to set up a cross-party working group to look into Germany’s narcotics laws and assess the efficacy of current drug policies. Now, two opposition groups in the Bundestag, the Greens and the Left party, have agreed to back the idea. Lorenz Böllinger hopes that some Social Democrats could follow suit. At least 120 parliamentarians are needed for the commission to be set up. The two opposition groups alone have 127 seats in the parliament.
“Marijuana consumers are being criminalized,” Bölinger has criticized, because they are forced to buy the drug expensively off black market dealers. They could get involved with the wrong people, said Böllinger. “It can ruin young people’s lives – and most of those who try weed are young people – if they are caught and the charge appears on their criminal record. They may have difficulty getting a job, or could be stripped off their driving license, etc. In short, it could send them off the rails.”
Marlene Mortler, Germany’s commissioner on drug-related issues, strongly rejects the legalization of cannabis, pointing to health risks. “We must not underestimate the health risks for young people, in particular,” reads a statement on the commissioner’s website. “Regular cannabis consumption leads to considerable health damage, and can lead to psychoses and addiction.”
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