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29 Nov, 2013 17:02

Berlin borough pushing for Germany’s first cannabis coffee-shop

Berlin borough pushing for Germany’s first cannabis coffee-shop

Berlin could soon be enjoying its very own legal marijuana, as the parliament of the trendy and hip Friedrichshain-Kreuzberg district voted overwhelmingly in favor of a measure that could see the first legal coffee shop in the country.

After barely a month in office, the then-newly elected Mayor of the area, the Green Party’s Monika Hermann, came up with the idea in September to turn her district into a zone free of cannabis laws, akin to Amsterdam’s coffee shops or Copenhagen’s famed Christiania district.

The idea was born out of a realization that dealing with drug crime in the area’s famous Görlitzer Park was simply too much hassle for authorities, when their time could be better spent tackling hard drugs and organized crime.

According to Hermann, since the beginning of the year police have raided the park 113 times, detaining 984 people and launching criminal proceedings against 310 people.

The result of the district parliament’s vote has been turned into an application to be submitted to the Federal Institute for Drugs and Medical Devices. This should turn the infamous Görlitzer Park into a pilot project for marijuana legalization, the Berliner Zeitung reported on Friday, following the Green Party’s Thursday announcement.

The resulting petition was drawn up in cooperation with various experts, counseling centers and area residents.

“It's not that I want to create a happy drug country,”
Hermann stressed. “But I believe that we can mitigate the problem of drugs in the park by it.”

She believes that the “ban policy has failed” and that “we must now think of unusual solutions.”

Although the possession and sale of soft drugs in Germany is still against the law, police leniency towards pot has been on the rise, while steps toward its decriminalization have been taking place since the mid-nineties.

Reuters / Nick Adams

One example of this is that possession of small amounts is no longer considered a criminal offense, while under the new proposed law, possession of as much as 15 grams could result in as little as a slap on the wrist.

There are grey areas everywhere in the application of the law as well, with the northern part of the country being more relaxed about the drug than the south, although leniency is evident all over. And this is a concern for some of Germany’s more leftist and democratic parties as well, with some of them asserting there are much harder and more dangerous drugs than pot.

Krezuberg will now seek to iron out the remaining legal issues with marijuana, including questions relating to who will be the distributors and sellers.

Noteworthy is the fact that according to Article 3 of the Narcotics Act, sufficient public interest has the potential to lead to legalization, provided that reasonable public and scientific evidence is given.

However, the German authorities don’t seem too thrilled by the idea of a coffee shop operating at Görlitzer Park.

“Cannabis is not a harmless substance, but holds for many, especially young people significant health risks,” Christina Köhler-Azara, Germany’s Drug Commissioner, stressed.

The Health Ministry spokeswoman said that a “drug is a drug”, and despite the fact that possession of small amounts of pot is allowed, selling it is still illegal.