Why Germany’s “Jamaica Coalition” Will Not Legalize Cannabis

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The international community has been keeping a watchful eye on the development of a so-called Jamaica Coalition in Germany — an alliance of the Christian Democratic Union/Christian Social Union (CDU/CSU), Free Democratic Party (FDP), and the Green Party. While the alliance has many implications for the future of the German government, and two of the three parties openly support legalization, the alliance is unlikely to have a major impact on cannabis policy in the country over the next four years.

Despite Jamaica’s stereotypical association with cannabis, the alliance’s name has nothing to do with the parties’ affinity for marijuana — their party colors are represented on the Jamaican flag: black, green and yellow. Nevertheless, the German media has been flirting with photomontages of dreadlock-wearing politicians who could legalize cannabis in the coming legislature.

Jamaica coalition depiction

German publication Franffurter Allgemeine’s depiction of the “Jamaica Coalition” last month.

Even with the Liberals (FDP) and Greens openly supporting the legalization of cannabis, reports of a forthcoming cannabis revolution or a presumable legalization are pure speculation. The conservative CDU/CSU has previously stated that cannabis legalization is not a priority for their party.

The Greens addressed the issue directly on Tuesday evening, but the Liberals diverted the focus away from cannabis, saying there were more pressing issues at hand. “A cannabis legalization would be reasonable, but there are more important issues,” an anonymous FDP-MP involved in the negotiations assured on request of the media outlet Berliner Tagesspiegel.

The negotiating parties would not fight each other for cannabis legalization, the anonymous source added.

The CDU General Secretary Tauber said the CDU/CSU would not have brought up the topic for discussion without prompting from the other parties.  

Although representatives of the Greens and the FDP during last week’s Cannabis Conference in Berlin asserted the coalition negotiations would continue to insist on full legalization, both had to admit that other issues are of higher priority.

“I can not confirm that [the FDP would not fight for legalization]. I can only say that we are putting the topic on the agenda and that we will discuss it and enforce as much as possible. Concerning the anonymous statement, I can say … that we have the big issues: How do we deal with the European policy, the education and the immigration policy? These are really big points before going into details. But, the subject of cannabis legalization is already on the agenda, I personally was there to incorporate it,” Marie Strack-Zimmermann of the FDP told Marijuana.com Friday.

The FDP is hardly a classic pro-cannabis party. The party’s openness to legalization is new and still controversial among its members. Until May 2015, the FDP was helping to shape the repressive drug policy at federal and state levels. The platform shift occurred after the Liberals lost all Parliament seats in the 2013 elections. Cannabis policy is still far from being a core issue within the FDP.

The Greens, on the other hand, have been working intensively on cannabis policy over the last few years, introducing a 70-page “cannabis control law” in 2016. But even for the Greens, drug policy is far from a top priority. For most Greens voters, exhaust fumes, CO2 savings, and gender equality issues take precedence over drug policy reform. If the two small parties push too hard on what the others consider a minor issue, their negotiating position on cannabis would be weakened.

While CDU/CSU will have to swallow some of the Greens and FDP’s requests when it comes to security, refugee, and environmental questions, the two smaller parties are unlikely to jeopardize coalition achievements by insisting on the legalization of cannabis during the final days of negotiations.

During the election campaign in September, Chancellor Angela Merkel of the CDU confirmed she does not think about cannabis regulation.

Slow and Steady Wins the Race

If a taboo break in conservative policy like cannabis legalization becomes politically viable, German Chancellor Merkel could take the opportunity to change her position.

The most recent poll conducted by the Mafo Institute for Marketing Research on the behalf of Playboy Deutschland shows 57 percent of Germans support the legalization of cannabis. Similar to the suspension of mandatory military service or process of nuclear disarmament, for the first since the total prohibition of marijuana in 1971, a majority of the Germans stand behind cannabis legalization.

But even if Merkel’s CDU makes concessions to her two small coalition partners, there will be no legalization under a CDU/CSU-led government within the next four years. The reservations among Germany’s largest party are simply too great.

Economic expert Joachim Pfeiffer has been the first and only of the 246 CDU/CSU members of Germany’s Parliament to openly support cannabis legalization. Pfeiffer, who holds a doctorate in economics, has spoken positively on the matter in the past. In 2015, Pfeiffer shared his opinion through an article in the Huffington Post:

“I do not want to downplay the dangers of the drug nor support consumption. Cannabis is and remains an intoxicant, which can have very harmful consequences if used regularly, especially for young people. Instead of an unsuccessful prohibition, we would be much better off with effective regulation. In doing so, I rely on the power of freedom. The revenue gained is much more use- and helpful than law enforcement.”

Even if the Union parties of the CDU/CSU refuse to get on board with full legalisation, the FDP and the Greens are likely to receive smaller concessions from their future partners such as federal decriminalization of personal use quantities between 15 and 30 grams — compared to the current range of 2 to 15 grams, depending on the state — and several cannabis-model projects or pilot programs to test different regulatory models.

Additionally, an adjustment to the unrealistic and excessive limits for cannabis in road traffic should be adapted to scientific and international standards.

Although cannabis will likely keep its illegal status, within a single legislative term it has evolved from a minor political priority to a relevant issue. After the introduction of medical cannabis in Germany only eight months ago, the future governing parties will be forced to seriously discuss on the legalization of cannabis for the first time. And that alone is a monumental step forward.

About Author

Michael Knodt is an expert on cannabis politics and cannabis culture across Europe. Born in North Germany, Michael has been living in Berlin since 1990. He initially studied history and journalism before receiving his certification as a carpenter. Since then, Michael has made regular visits to countries where cannabis is cultivated, such as Jamaica and Morocco. He has worked as a freelancer for Weedmaps, Vice Magazine Germany, Sensi Seeds and numerous German-language cannabis magazines since 2004. From 2005 to 2013, Michael was the Editor-in-Chief of Germanys biggest cannabis periodical. He also is the face and presenter of the most popular program on cannabis prohibition and just launched a new channel called "DerMicha." Aside from his journalistic work, Michael is a cannabis patient, activist, sought-after speaker on conferences and congresses, and a father of two.

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