In Berlin on Saturday, marchers will come out in force in support of cannabis. Politicians, too, have called for weed’s legalization. Many Germans consider prohibition policies to have failed, Matthias von Hein reports.
Berlin’s Hanfparade (Hemp Parade) has now taken place every year since 1997. Last year, according to the official website, 6,500 people demonstrated for the “legalization of cannabis as a resource,medicine and recreational drug in Germany.” The activists’ efforts appear to have led to results. There is movement in the drug policy debate. In Germany and abroad, more and more people are discussing the failure of prohibition, and some officials are contemplating, even embarking on, new paths.
Medical marijuana is now legal in more than half of the 50 US states, and four states have legalized pot completely. Uruguay recently became the first country in the world to regulate cannabis in its entirety, from planting and growing to consumption. In September 2014, former UN Secretary General Kofi Annan even made a dramatic appeal for the liberalization of drug policy at the United Nations: Human health should be the world’s priority, he said, not criminal prosecution. In Europe, the Czech Republic, Portugal and Spain have all stopped pursuing recreational smokers. In the Netherlands, the consumption of marijuana and hashish is facilitated by retail sales at coffee shops.
Now, the discussion is picking up steam in Germany: On March 20, the parliament discussed a cannabis compliance law put forth by the Greens. When the neoliberal Free Democrats held their convention in mid-May, a majority of members supported legalization. Carsten Sieling, a Social Democrat and the chief exectutive of the city-state of Bremen, spoke out in favor of legalizing cannabis in July – becoming the first German state premier to do so. He soon had support from Baden-Württemburg State Premier Winfried Kretschmann, a Green. And other Social Democrats – such as Bettina Müller, who sits on the Bundestag’s health commission – have also spoken out strongly for legalization.