The liberal political party in Germany, "Die Linke", is pushing to make marijuana legal as long as it's been cultivated in so-called Cannabis Social Clubs (CSCs). Under the proposed legalisation, people could become members of a CSC club and take a gram of marijuana home with them each day. Furthermore, motorists who are caught with THC coursing happily through their bloodstreams would not lose their licenses as easily. Similar legislation is already in place in Spain and Belgium, and unsurprisingly crusties and amateur stoners alike are attending such clubs in scores.
Since 2002, Georg Wurth has been the spokesman, director and owner of the German Hemp Collective. In 1996, he was charged with possession of four grams of marijuana, and so took it upon himself to get the ball rolling on the legalisation debate. To his misfortune (or fortune?), his charge brought him to the highest place possible, Germany's Federal Constitutional Court, but it's his 2010 petition, titled "Cannabis Consumer Decriminilisation", that has played a major role in getting Die Linke to take these proposals to parliament.
I spoke to Georg the day before Die Link put the proposals he helped shape to parliament.
VICE: Hey Georg. How big a step is this in terms of getting weed legalised in Germany?
Georg Wurth: It would definitely be a big step. At the same time, the Left Party's bill isn't so much about legalisation, but more about decriminalisation – so consumers of weed wouldn't be prosecuted as long as they belong to one of these collectives. There will be another proposal after this one to lift the limit of private consumption to 30 grams – something I find pretty sensible. The CSCs go beyond this proposal, because home-grown marijuana is very toughly prosecuted in Germany. It's a much bigger legal risk for a consumer to grow his or her own plants, compared to someone who gets the same amount on a black market, because the person who grows the weed later ends up with a much larger supply. The current legislation is counter-productive because if the few people who grow at home are the ones who are penalised, then the black market will profit. I'm talking about the dealers... mostly seedy, dangerous characters. The CSCs present an alternative. They are good for people who, for whatever reason, cannot or do not want to grow on their own.
In Spain there are supposedly thousands of members within the 200 clubs of this kind. How does that work?
It functions wonderfully. They have strict rules, they work with the authorities together... they declare where and how much weed they are growing.
How can the CSCs control whether or not the members stick to their alloted 30 grams? Is each person only allowed one plant?
That's something we'd have to see about. In Belgium, there is also a CSC where each person can legally be given one plant. The main thing is that they work together with the authorities and that everything is documented. Most of the clubs have honest intentions, and are transparent when it comes to distribution because they would otherwise lose their licenses. Taking this into consideration, I am assuming that the other rules the legislation proposes would be widely adhered to, rules like not giving weed to adolescents, for example.
As a member, would I be allowed to take seeds back home and grow my plants there?
That's something I could easily imagine happening. But they'd somehow have to oversee or manage individual cultivation of marijuana from house to house. That's what the first CSC groups in Spain and Belgium had to fight the courts about. One could also say: Cultivation for individual use is only possible within such clubs. I don't really think that makes sense, though, because the person who grows one plant at home – though I would plead for five – is not a criminal.
Is everyone allowed to become a member of such clubs?
The clubs are for adults. That is the most important requirement.
What happens when someone's records state that they've previously been charged for frequent consumption or smoking while driving?
Such misdemeanours shouldn't be valid any more. That's what the proposal is about. We have about four million consumers of cannabis in Germany and every year there are 100,000 criminal proceedings exclusively due to such legal offences. The authorities and police make a huge effort to bully these people who are guilty of nothing other than smoking weed instead of drinking alcohol. What is that? Why should people with these kinds of criminal records not be allowed to join a CSC?
And regarding traffic laws?
Whoever smokes weed while driving should also be at risk of losing his or her license. But where people get their weed from – whether it's from the black market or from the CSC – should not play any role at all. Currently it is the case that a lot of people lose their license because of marijuana, although they have never driven a car while smoking weed. Police write "routine user" when they stop people at automobile control stations and those people claim they only smoke on weekends... Then those people end up losing their licenses. But that doesn't happen to someone who drinks a beer every week. That is discrimination of cannabis consumers and it has nothing to do with traffic safety.
You gave an official statement about the legislation to parliament. What do you think your chances are with parliament tomorrow?
A positive decision will not come out of this period of legislation. The CDU [Christian Democratic Union] puts a lot of energy into fighting such reforms, and the FDP [Free Democratic Party] does, too. The FDP are not as liberal as they pretend to be. They also have a very conservative, repressive secretary for narcotics in office who can't be bypassed. The SPD [Social Democratic Party] is also very reluctant to legalise cannabis.
Alright, I guess we'll see how it goes. Thanks, Georg.
It didn't go well. According to our German editor Felix Nicklas, "There is no way weed will ever become legal with Merkel in power. There were three proposals being discussed yesterday and all three of them were denied by our conservative party which is in power."
Keep dreaming, German weedos.