Here Comes Der Judge: German District Court Judge Declares Anti-Cannabis Laws ‘Unconstitutional’
A district court judge has challenged the constitutionality of Germany’s anti-marijuana laws. Judge Andreas Müller, of Bernau district (near Berlin) defended his conclusion in a 141-page submission order. Judge Müller’s brief came in response to the case of a young engineering student, arrested in Berlin for purchasing 2.6 grams of cannabis resin. Due to the suspect’s prior record, the prosecutor pushed for a 150 Euro fine; equal to about $160 USD.
No Blood, No Foul
To Judge Müller, this penalty was disproportionate to the crime’s presumed harm to society. In his brief, he argued that small quantities should go unpunished, because “moderate consumption” is relatively harmless. “Small” can mean different things in different German states. In rural, conservative Bavaria, it’s up to six grams. In urban, liberal Berlin, a small quantity can be as much as fifteen grams. What’s not a small quantity, however, is the number of German citizens who fall foul of cannabis laws. It is estimated that Germany has about 4 million marijuana users. German police report about 325,000 drug offenses per year. Approximately 3/4 of these are for cannabis possession or use.
Full Court Press on Anti-Cannabis Laws
Müller himself is a fairly unconventional judge. He talks freely of his own experiences with cannabis. In 2015, he published a book, Kiffen und Kriminalitat (Smoking and Crime), in which he makes the case for limited legalization. German newspaper Bild once called him the country’s toughest youth judge. He even made headlines once for banning neo-fascist juvenile delinquents from wearing combat boots.
The Opposition May Approach the Bench
But Germany’s more conservative parties oppose Müller’s pro-legalization perspective. The far-right Alternative For Germany (AfD) party, for example, stands firmly behind anti-cannabis laws. Less fiercely, Angela Merkel’s center-right Christian Democrats (CDU) have also traditionally been skeptical toward legalization. On unofficial cannabis counterculture holiday April 20th, German Drug Commissioner Daniela Ludwig spoke to the public. “Smoking for fun will not become legal,” she stated plainly, deeply disappointing some Germans.
Left Lane To Liberalization
Perhaps unsurprisingly, Germany’s left-wing parties are more open to cannabis legalization. The Social Democrats, Free Democrats, and Greens tend to oppose strict marijuana laws. These parties were instrumental in Germany’s 2017 decision to legalize medical cannabis. At the time, the CDU’s weak majority necessitated compromise with the left. Since then, the Christian Democrats’ commitment to anti-cannabis laws seems to have softened. CDU Spokesman Marian Wendt has even suggested that lifting the ban and regulating production and distribution would save Germany a great deal of enforcement money. The savings, he argued, could then be better spent on combatting the remaining illegal producers.
The Global Hempire Strikes Back
It’s not just left and center-right politicians putting pressure on Germany’s cannabis ban. Market forces also seem to be accelerating the conversation. According to Reports and Data the global medical marijuana industry is currently worth about 12 billion USD. Furthermore, this number may increase to as much as 150 billion by 2026. And legal marijuana is no less a growth industry. Market-savvy Germans can see that cannabis consumption is rising, especially among the young. How long before the scales tip?
Europe’s Green Future
Germany’s powerful economy drives the European Union. Without an army, German security, and by extension EU security, depends on German economic power. That economic power, in turn, comes partly from decisive responses to market trends. The same Reports and Data article suggests that Europe may comprise nearly 1/3 of the global medical marijuana market by 2026. Germany is predicted to become the largest market in Europe. As such, economics may eventually drive Germans of diverse political backgrounds to support decriminalization.
Law of the Land
Judge Müller’s brief will now be reviewed by Germany’s Federal Constitutional Court. Müller argues that decriminalization in Portugal, Canada, and the US has not stopped law enforcement from protecting minors in those countries. He further describes Germany’s legal distinction between alcohol and cannabis, both of which are intoxicants, as “highly arbitrary.” But with Drug Commissioner Ludwig having made her opposition clear, only the Federal Constitutional Court now has the power to decriminalize. But even if courts uphold the cannabis ban as constitutional, it seems certain the debate will continue. And with Germany’s 2021 elections just around the corner, the end of anti-cannabis laws in Europe’s most powerful economy remains very real.
Keep it Laut!
Thanks for reading! Check out Chet’s other articles on international cannabis reform here. And don’t forget to sign up for our weekly newsletter that goes out Sunday night. It’s free! Stay in touch by following us on social media: @loudnewsnet on all platforms. It’s been a crazy week on Twitter…