Drug Policy in Germany: 100 Days of Standstill & Lobbying

On 19 November 2009, the German Federal Minister of Health, Dr. Philipp Rösler, appointed the Member of Parliament Mechthild Dyckmans (both FDP, a German market liberal party) to the post of Government Commissioner for Drugs. Many thought that after the term in office of her predecessor Sabine Bätzing – often denoted ‘moraliser of the nation’ – things could only get better. Likewise, many had not yet abandoned hope that there is someone within FDP indeed defending self-determination and valueing election promises concerning the use of cannabis as medicine.

100 days have passed since then and … what happend? Saying ‘Not much’ would still be euphemistic. Dyckmans has only been visible in alcohol policy with some statements following FDP’s usual free market doctrine: voluntary self-commitment on the side of businesses and no tougher laws. This was proclaimed at a press conference of the Bundesverband der Deutschen Spirituosen-Industrie und -Importeure (BSI) (Federation of German Spirits Industry and Importers), thus remaining true to the FDP’S Mövenpick-approach (after a co-owner of Mövenpick Hotels & Resorts had donated over 1 million Euros to the FDP, the FDP lowered the VAT for hotels from 19 to 7%…). In the last legislative period, Dyckmans had not voted in favor of diamorphine supply as one of two FDP MPs. Now, she visited Frankfurt to nod the existent government policy through. In this area, even her predecessor Bätzing was more progressive and committed.

Abgeordnetenwatch is watching Dyckmans

At the online platform Abgeordnetenwatch where citizens can ask questions to MPs and observe their voting behavior, Dyckmans’ answers again demonstrate her far-fetched views: People asking about the legalisation of cannabis are generally imputed the downplaying of the drug’s risks and Dyckmans goes on stating that the often claimed harmlessness of cannabis is not in compliance with scientific knowledge. She also considers the criminalization of cannabis users as being virtually non-existent by reason of the fact that most trials are discontinued if the relevant conditions apply. Asked about the revocation of driving licences due to the use of cannabis, she states that there have been judgements against this proceeding. There have been, indeed – but they are not being implemented!

Furthermore, she pleads for effective and high-quality cannabis as medicine – however, she heavily warns against home produce leading to the risk of prosecution. It seems as if Cannabis was even spooky to her due to all the negative side effects its consumption brings along after an initial phase of euphoria. Can we thus conclude that millions of stoners in Germany are in fact zombies close to having panick attacks? Well, there are indeed no signs of euphoria with me – however only in relation to Ms. Dyckmans.
Her explanation of the high costs of treatment with natural cannabis from pharmacies is negligible: “As cannabinoids are not licensed for medical use in Germany, there is in principle no requirement for the health insurances to compensate for these costs. In case you can’t afford the treatment costs, it remains possible for you to go to see your doctor and find treatment alternatives with approved drugs. “- This seems to be the policy implementation of the election promise “FDP is committed to the authorization of cannabis for medical uses for pain relief”!

Diagnosis: Blithely Unaware

Moving on blithely unaware seems to be the slogan of the politicans, no matter if experts call for an evaluation of drug policies free from ideologies or a chief of police calls for the decriminalization of cannabis consumers. Also happenings elsewhere are not taken into account.

In Switzerland, prosecution of stoners has been given up, the Czech government decriminalized the possession of numerous drugs including the cultivation of cannabis and magic mushrooms, in the United States the majority of Americans supports the legalization of cannabis, in Seattle a newly-elected attorney abandoned prosecuting owners of cannabis and in California the Parliamentary Committee on Public Safety even approved a motion providing for the legalization and taxation of cannabis for adults.

At the same time, the German voice can not be heard in the international discourse on drug policy. A brutal drug war rages in Mexico, the opium question remains unanswered despite its enormous importance for Afghanistan and the German government does not seem to notice the European and global reform movement which could lead to real changes in drug policy – be it only decriminalization and harm reduction.

Status Quo = Persecution & Suffering & Death

All of the above would not be all that tragic if the inaction did not lead to people suffering or even dying. Keyword here is Impured/Stretched Cannabis. The German Hemp Association writes that „in some regions, there is hardly any clean marihuana left. Millions of Germans smoke plastic, sugar and worse things“. Dr. Franjo Grotenhermen, Chairman of the Working Group ‘Cannabis as Medicine’ considers the general situation in this field as dramatic. Furthermore, the criminalization of doctors who hand out methadone continues and the delivery of heroin is hampered by restrictive regulations. Prevention of addiction is downsized into nothingness due to financial constraints and when it comes to problematic consumption of alcohol, nothing substantially new can be heard.

This article was written by Max, member of the Executive Committee of GRÜNE JUGEND. You can find the original article (in German) here.

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