In a potential shift in drug policy in Germany, the acquisition, possession, and cultivation of cannabis may soon be legal with restrictions, as per the plans of the traffic light coalition (Ampel-Koalition). While proponents of the project argue that decriminalisation is long overdue, critics express concerns about potential risks. Torsten Krückemeier, the Police Chief of Central Hesse, anticipates new challenges for law enforcement officers, especially in the Gießen region.
This marks a pivotal moment in German drug policy, with the possibility of cannabis becoming fundamentally legal for adults as early as April, subject to certain limitations. The passage of the law is currently ongoing, and certain aspects of its practical implementation remain unclear. Even in the Gießen region, cannabis users are hopeful that their first legal joint is within reach. Supporters emphasise that the physical consequences of tobacco and alcohol consumption, both legal substances, are far more severe. However, enthusiasm within the police force is limited as they foresee significant challenges in adapting to the new rules.
Legalisation of cannabis: challenges for law enforcement
One of the anticipated difficulties lies in conducting traffic checks. Krückemeier points out, “Unlike alcohol, we don’t have firmly defined limits, which science has not been able to provide us with yet.” According to the proposed law, the Ministry of Transport is expected to determine scientifically based limits for the active substance Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), which would be crucial when driving. Current values are considered controversial, with experts noting the complexity of assessing the relationship between THC concentration and impaired driving ability compared to alcohol. The German Traffic Court recommended an increase in the THC limit for road traffic in 2022. Krückemeier speculates, “As a consumer, you might not feel the effects as much and find it difficult to assess the impact.” He also raises concerns about professionals, such as bus drivers and even police officers, who may be under the influence of cannabis.
According to Krückemeier, after legalisation, it will become significantly more challenging for the police to “detect and sanction offences during checks.” As per the Ampel coalition’s draft, adults would be allowed to possess and carry up to 25 grams of cannabis. Krückemeier comments, “I could move around in public with a small amount.” However, he points out the potential for individuals with larger quantities to exploit this allowance.
Legalisation supporters argue that it would considerably relieve the police and judiciary. Currently, investigations into violations of the Narcotics Act are often dropped due to “small quantities” of cannabis. The argument is that law enforcement could save a considerable amount of paperwork by not pursuing the possession of smaller amounts of cannabis from the outset. On the other hand, sceptics warn of increased efforts in monitoring activities such as cultivation and distribution through “social clubs.”
Comments on the issue
The Police Chief aligns with this perspective, stating:
“The effort involved in every check is still high. Additionally, it must always be verified whether everything complies with legal provisions.”
He believes that it would be more effective for lawmakers to streamline existing procedural regulations.
The extent to which partial legalisation and decriminalisation can dry up the black market is a subject of debate. Supporters of the legislation argue that it would serve public health by allowing consumers to obtain controlled cannabis through new clubs rather than relying on dealers. Krückemeier disagrees, stating, “I don’t think legalisation will succeed in curbing the current criminality associated with cannabis consumption, as attempted in the Netherlands with partial legalisation and ‘coffee shops’.”
Furthermore, he questions why advice from paediatricians who warn against legalisation is not being heeded, emphasising the need for more prevention efforts. While the plans of the traffic light coalition propose continued prohibition for minors, concerns have been raised by medical associations about the potential increase in teenage consumption and the impact of cannabis on mental health.
In conclusion, despite criticism, the police will ultimately have to adapt to the new cannabis legislation. The destination of this journey remains uncertain for now.