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​Frankfurt city hall sparks up talks on pot legalization

​Frankfurt city hall sparks up talks on pot legalization
Experts met to discuss the merits of cannabis legalization at Frankfurt’s city hall on Monday, marking the first time that a German city has officially discussed a change to marijuana laws.

Various specialists – including police officers, economists, doctors, and drug counselors – testified during the debate.

Rosemarie Heilig, deputy head of the city health department in Frankfurt, proposed a new drug policy, dubbed the "Frankfurter Path," which stresses counseling and therapy instead of punishment.

Heilig said the debate on marijuana has been "bogged down for decades and ideologically charged," and called for a "pragmatic approach” to the problem.

Frankfurt is the first city in Germany to officially discuss changing cannabis laws.

Earlier this year, the Schildow Circle – a group of pro-marijuana lawyers – signed a petition advising the government to legalize the drug.

The group, founded by Lorenz Bollinger, consists of 122 criminal lawyers who have been campaigning for the legalization of the sale and ownership of marijuana for over two years. Last November, the group successfully urged parliament to set up a cross-party working group to examine Germany’s drug laws and reevaluate its drug policies. This spring, the Greens and Lefts agreed to back the idea.

AFP Photo / DPA / Oliver Berg / Germany out

Currently in Germany – where some three million people admit to using marijuana regularly – consumption of the drug is legal, though sale and cultivation is not.

A July court ruling allowed “chronic pains sufferers” to grow their own marijuana for medical use.

Critics of Germany’s cannabis polices decry them as ineffective.

One lawyer – Professor Ulfrid Neumann of Goethe University, a member of the Schildow Circle – told DPA news agency that he thinks curbing marijuana consumption is a matter of education.

“The legal lifting of a ban should be accompanied by actions that warn against the abuse. What we have already seen in the use of the nicotine drug is that the changes are possible through education and that they are based primarily on a change in the social climate,” he said.

However, not all German authorities back legalization. Marlene Mortler, Germany's commissioner on drug-related issues, points to the health risks of using the drug.

"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."

Nor are the majority of Germans enthused by the prospect of legalization. A survey conducted by Forsa in January found that 65 percent of Germans said they do not support laws restricting the production, sale, and consumption of marijuana.