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Germany: German police association boss calls for decriminalisation of cannabis and new focus on helping addicts
Monday 05 Feb 2018
André Schulz, head of the Association of German Criminal Officers (BDK), which has around 15,000 police detectives as members, said on Monday that he did not think the current ban on the drug would remain in place in Germany for much longer.
"The prohibition of cannabis has historically been seen as arbitrary and has not yet been implemented in an intelligent and effective manner,” Mr Schulz told the German newspaper, Bild. “In the history of mankind there has never been a society without the use of drugs; this is something that has to be accepted,” he added.
Since last March, some patients in Germany have been allowed to get medicinal marijuana from their doctors. But using it for recreational purposes remains a criminal offence.
Mr Schulz argues that this stigmatizes people and “allows criminal careers to start”. Instead, he argues, the country should focus on helping addicts to recover, protecting children and young people, and promoting responsible drug use.
"There are better options in drug policy than relying largely on repression," the 47-year old chief inspector said.
It is not the first time Schulz has criticised drug policy in Germany. "The ban has failed," he said in November at a conference in Berlin, where politicians, consumers and other experts discussed legalisation.
While in January he told the Hamburger Morgenpost that the fight against drugs caught the wrong people and used up too much police manpower.
“In 70 percent of drug cases, police deal with consumers, not with dealers,” he said.
But the German public may not agree with him. A study carried out by Forsa, a research institute, in November, found that most German respondents didn’t want recreational use of marijuana to be legalised.
The survey, which questioned 1,000 people on the subject, found that 63 per cent were against legalisation, while just 34 per cent believed adults should be able to buy the drug for their own use in specialist shops if they want to.
Mr Schulz does want it to remain a criminal offence to drive after consuming cannabis. However, there are currently “uncertainties and loopholes in the law" for motorists, he pointed out. Cannabis users in Germany can have their licence taken away even if they have not driven while intoxicated, which is not the case for those who drink alcohol.
The German parliament made medicinal marijuana legal in January 2017. The law, which came into effect in March, said that patients who suffer from serious illnesses, such as cancer, multiple sclerosis, or chronic pain, can pick up prescriptions from their doctors. "Seriously ill people must be treated in the best ways possible," Hermann Gröhe, Germany’s health minister, who proposed the law, said at the time.
In November, a survey with health insurance companies Barmer, Techniker Krankenkasse (TK) and Allgemeine Ortskrankenkasse (AOK), found that over 13,000 people had applied to be given the drug for medical purposes in the 10 months since it was legalised – many more than the yearly 700 patients the draft legislation estimated.
Other countries in Europe have experimented with introducing liberal drug laws, including Portugal, which decriminalised all drugs in 2001.
Cannabis is currently illegal but tolerated in the Netherlands, where Amsterdam is famous for its marijuana-filled coffee-shops. Dutch lawmakers also approved legislation in February 2017 that permits the professional cultivation of marijuana, and some claim this is a step towards legalisation.
Elsewhere, in Belgium, personal use of cannabis, within certain guidelines, is legal for anyone over the age of 18. However Belgium will not tolerate Dutch-style coffee shops.
Attitudes towards marijuana are also changing in America.The drug has been made legal for medical purposes in 29 states, since it was first legalised in California in 1996.
In some states recreational marijuana has also been legalised, within certain guidelines – these are Alaska, California, Colorado, Oregon, Nevada and Washington. Bills have also been proposed to legalise marijuana this year in Maine and Massachusetts.
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