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Berlin likely to semi-legalize marijuana

(DW) Almost completely obscured by the US election was the news that as part of their coalition negotiations to govern the city, Berlin's Social Democrats, the Greens and the Left Party want to partially allow marijuana use. Various newspapers cited Green politician Benedikt Lux saying that the three parties had agreed to seek a "scientifically monitored pilot project for the controlled distribution of cannabis to adults." That doesn't sound exactly like bong hits of White Widow or Train Wreck Sweet for all, but advocates say the initiative could be a step toward getting marijuana decriminalized. In the past, explains Max Plenert of the German Hemp Association, attempts by city districts to legalize pot have foundered on the Federal Intoxicants Law, which bans cannabis. Plenert thinks that the entire city, which is also one of Germany's 16 federal states, has far better chances for success. "The legal code is decided at the federal level, and this is about a local attempt to try to do things differently," Plenert told DW. "The Intoxicants Law provides for such experiments. You can apply for exceptions, although the Minister of Health also has influence over the final decision. The state of Berlin has far broader possibilities than a city district in terms of setting up a pilot project. We can make a far more powerful appeal for an exception." Leave it to Germany to translate the issue of whether people should be allowed to get high into a rather dry question of political procedure. Marijuana advocates argue that they're just trying to bring the law in line with reality, particularly in Berlin, a city where it's easy to buy cannabis and small-time dealing is rarely punished.

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