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Germany legalizes recreational cannabis use

By Nadine Schmidt, CNN

Berlin (CNN) — Germany’s lower house of parliament voted to legalize cannabis for limited recreational use on Friday despite warnings from the opposition and medical authorities.

The new rules mean adults can possess small amounts for personal use but the drug remains banned for under 18s.

In total, 407 German lawmakers voted in favor of the new regulation, 226 lawmakers voted against and four lawmakers abstained from Friday’s vote. The passage of the bill follows a controversial national debate about the pros and cons of allowing easier access to the drug.

The move makes Germany the third country in Europe – after Malta and Luxembourg – to legalize the drug for recreational use, removing cannabis from the official list of banned substances.

The Netherlands bans possession of drugs but some municipalities permit them to be sold in coffee shops under its so-called policy of toleration.

In other countries, like Australia and the US, rules vary in different localities.

Under the new legislation, put forward by Germany’s ruling coalition party, adults can cultivate up to three plants for private consumption and be allowed to possess 50g at one time at home, and 25g in public, starting from April 1.

From July 1, cannabis would also be available in licensed not-for-profit clubs with no more than 500 members – all of whom would have to be adults. Only club members would be allowed to consume their output.

“The aim is to crack down on the black market and drugs-related crime, reduce the amount of dealing and cut the number of users,” Germany’s Health Minister Karl Lauterbach said ahead of the vote.

The German government said that cannabis would remain illegal for minors and highly restricted for young adults, adding that consuming the drug near schools and playgrounds would be illegal.

”Child and youth protection is at the heart of what this law is meant to achieve,” Lauterbach said. “Nobody should misunderstand this law: cannabis consumption is being legalized, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t dangerous,” Germany’s health minister said.

Germany’s conservative Christian Democratic Union (CDU), the country’s largest opposition party, has opposed the new legislation. CDU Lawmaker Tino Sorge said in a statement published Thursday, “Instead of protecting children and young people, the coalition is acting like a state drug dealer.”

There has also been considerable criticism of the plans from the German Medical Associations (GMA).

“The legalization of cannabis leads to more consumption and trivializes the associated risks. Cannabis can be addictive and cause serious developmental damage. This country does not need cannabis legalization,” President of the GMA Klaus Reinhardt said Friday before the vote.

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