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Germany: Cannabis legalization on the brink? Bundesrat votes on bill tomorrow

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Photo: Mahesh Kumar Painam @ Unsplash

Most of the media announced the legalization of cannabis in Germany as a fait accompli, but the truth is that things are not happening that quickly and there is still a huge obstacle to overcome. Although unlikely, the Bundesrat (Federal Council) could make the bill unviable tomorrow. Understand how in this article by Ben Stevens, Journalist for our partner Business of Cannabis.

Germany's cannabis decriminalization bill is set to face its final and potentially most dangerous political test tomorrow, with government sources suggesting its future is now at stake. Tomorrow, March 22nd, the project will go to the Bundesrat (Federal Council) for a vote that has already been considered a formality, as it does not technically have the right to reject the projectimmediately, now that it has been approved by the Bundestag. However, over the past few weeks, this vote has evolved into a fundamental test for CanG, which, as the bill's architect, Karl Lauterbach, admitted, could see the “cannabis law die”, if a mediation committee was summoned.

With opposition to the bill emerging among the federal states, but with growing recognition that the mediation committee could be used by opponents of the bill to destroy the project, the future of the CanG hangs on a razor's edge.

“If it is not possible to reach a consensus in a mediation committee, the legislation dies”

How do mediation committees work?
A mediation committee is convened when the German Lower House (Bundestag), which voted on the project with a strong majority last month, and the Upper House (Bundesrat) disagree.

If the Bundesrat, a federal council made up of political representatives from each of the 16 member states, rejects or wishes to amend a draft law approved by the Bundestag, a committee is formed with representatives from both chambers to negotiate a compromise version of the draft law. law. If consensus is reached, the committee will issue a recommendation for both chambers to consider. The revised project would then need to be voted on by both chambers a second time.

While it is possible that the commission could be convened on a single issue, several German politicians have raised concerns that even if an agreement is reached, there will not be enough time for both chambers to vote on the bill before the next general election.

Typically, if consensus cannot be reached in a mediation committee, the legislation dies. Karl Lauterbach called a “crisis meeting” between the ministries of justice, interior and health in the federal states in an effort to overcome growing objections to the bill.

This meeting was initially scheduled for Wednesday, March 20, two days before the vote. However, it was canceled on Tuesday.

Just this morning, the Greens' Kirsten Kappert-Gonther, who has been one of the bill's strongest supporters, told the German Press Agency: “We are in very constructive discussions with the states and have high hopes that the mediation will not be called.”

A political tool
According to Handelsblatt, sources from the Greens and the FDP suggest that the federal states led by the CDU/CSU parties are bent on sabotaging the draft law, including Bavarian Prime Minister Markus Söder (CSU), who said in the end de Fevereiro that they would “do everything possible to make this law invalid, delay it or do it differently”.

“Abstention will count as a vote against the bill”

Timo Bongartz, CCO at Cannavigia points out that states that have not reached a unanimous agreement will be counted as “neutral”, meaning that their vote in the Bundesrat will count as 'not in favor' of passing the bill.

Saxony is another state dominated by the CDU, which had already suggested that it would use the committee to sabotage the bill. Notably, however, SPD spokeswoman for Saxony, Petra Köpping, announced yesterday on X that she believed Saxony would abstain from the vote, adding: “We decided this because the #CDU does not want to use the #VA mediation) to improve the law but block it completely.”

As mentioned above, it is understood that abstention will count as a vote against the bill, but this demonstrates the growing recognition of the use of the commission as a political trap among other parties. This uncertainty about the likely outcome of the vote is, according to the German Association of Cannabis Companies (BvCW), already having a negative impact on companies.

Group vice-president Dirk Heitepriem said in a recent press release: “Our member companies now need planning, investment and legal certainty. A further postponement of the law's entry into force will put many livelihoods at risk. The desire for more time for an amnesty and for countries to prepare is understandable, but we, business people, patients and farmers, do not have that time,” he said.

Why is a mediation committee being considered?
Numerous issues with CanG have been raised by states, but the main point of contention that threatens to derail its progress remains the “amnesty rule”. This stipulates that prison sentences and fines that were historically imposed, and which would no longer be punishable under the new law, would have to be revoked retroactively.

With dozens of cases potentially needing to be resolved in each of Germany's 16 federal states, those expected to deal with this monumental administrative headache are holding back. How much extra work this would mean for the judiciary currently depends on who is asked the question.

“This uncertainty about the likely outcome of the vote is, according to the German Association of Cannabis Companies (BvCW), already having a negative impact on companies”

According to analysis by Deutsche Richterzeitung, a respected German legal and political magazine, this would lead to more than 210.000 criminal cases across the country having to be checked retroactively, including 7.000 cases in Saxony, 5.000 in Saxony-Anhalt and 4.500 in Thuringia.

The Ministry of Health rejected these figures, suggesting that the number of complex procedures to be examined in the short term would total just 7.500 across the country, and that the bill would eliminate tens of thousands of crimes every year.

An alternative analysis by LEAP Germany (Law Enforcement Against Prohibition) suggests that the “amnesty regulation” would only occur at the request of the person concerned and would only come into force a year later.

“It seems possible to get a lot of work done, but on the other hand, there will also be significant relief for both the police and the judiciary due to the elimination of property crimes (around 90.000 consumer crimes every six months). Furthermore, the immediate suspension of ongoing legal proceedings related to the law would result in “immediate meaningful redress.”

 

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[Disclaimer: Please note that this text was originally written in Portuguese and is translated into English and other languages ​​using an automatic translator. Some words may differ from the original and typos or errors may occur in other languages.]

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