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Scholz’s SPD puts cannabis legalization on hold

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Germany’s plans to legalize cannabis appear to be in limbo after the Social Democratic Party of Chancellor Olaf Scholz’s three-party coalition announced on Tuesday that the law will not be passed this year as initially planned, according to Euractiv. 

Plans to hold a vote on the law in mid-December, as agreed on this summer between coalition members, the SPD, the Greens and the liberal SPD, have now been put on hold.

The SPD parliamentary group wanted to “clarify the budgetary issues first,” as it wanted to avoid the impression “that the [coalition] is primarily concerned with cannabis legalization,” said SPD Secretary-General Kevin Kühnert in Berlin.

However, the suspension of the vote appears to have been mainly the result of internal tensions, with several SPD MPs threatening to vote against legalization because they felt their concerns had not been considered.

“If the law on cannabis legalization were to be voted on now, there would be a considerable number of no votes from the SPD parliamentary group, including my own,” SPD politician Sebastian Fiedler told Spiegel on Monday.

The planned legislation is silent on organized crime, missing a key target, and provisions to protect minors are also inadequate, he said.

The news comes as a blow to the agenda of Germany’s coalition government, comprised of the centre-left SPD, the Greens and the liberal FDP.

The initial law would have allowed personal cultivation and possession of certain amounts for adults from 1 April 2024, with Cannabis Social Clubs for collective cultivation possible from 1 July.

Leading coalition lawmakers had hailed the reform as a “paradigm shift” in a joint press release last week, following the successful negotiation of several amendments as part of the parliamentary consultation process.

“We (…) expressly recognize the social reality of the situation. We have seen: An exclusive [cannabis] ban does not work,” the statement reads.

While the SPD has not said the date it wants the vote postponed, the Greens and the FDP are confident that early January would be enough to meet the original targets, according to the FAZ.