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News from Germany

> Germany legalises the recreational use of cannabis

> Germany's smallest state confronts the far-right

> Farmers' protests lead to blockades and trafficc jams across Germany

> Berlin state parliament lowers voting age to 16

Cannabis Germany

CANNABIS

Germany legalises the recreational use of cannabis, but conditions apply

April 2024: On 1 April 2024, following Malta in 2021 and Luxembourg in 2023, Germany became the largest country in the European Union (EU) to legalise cannabis for recreational use. Possession of up to 25 grams of dried cannabis is now permitted in public places, as is home cultivation of up to 50 grams and three plants per adult. However, cannabis smokers will have to wait another three months before they can legally buy drugs through so-called ‘Cannabis Social Clubs’.

 

The situation will change in July with the introduction of the clubs. These non-profit associations will be able to sell their members a maximum of 25 grams a day and no more than 50 grams a month. These clubs, a kind of shared cannabis garden, will be able to grow the drug on an outdoor plot, in a greenhouse or an uninhabited building. Checked at least once a year by the authorities, each association will be able to welcome, for a membership fee, a maximum of 500 people who have been resident in Germany for at least six months.

 

According to the German government, the new legislation should make it possible to combat trafficking more effectively. Believing that the policy of prohibition has failed, Health Minister Dr (med) Karl Lauterbach regularly points out that countries such as Canada, which have implemented legalisation, have been able to reduce the black market. The minister said cannabis was coming out of the taboo zone. "It's better for real help for drug addicts, prevention for young people and the fight against the black market", he added.

 

But many medical associations fear an increase in consumption, particularly among young people. Up to the age of 25, cannabis use entails greater risks for the still-developing brain, according to experts, who point in particular to the danger of developing psychotic disorders such as schizophrenia.

 

Germany's health minister has promised increased resources to raise awareness among young people of the dangers of cannabis, without announcing any specific amounts. The authorities point out that cannabis remains banned for under-18s. Consumption is also banned within a 100-metre radius of schools, crèches and playgrounds.

 

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PROTESTS AGAINST THE FAR-RIGHT

Germany’s smallest state confronts the right

March 2024: In recent weeks and days in Saarland, Germany’s smallest state after the city-states of Berlin, Hamburg and Bremen, tens of thousands of people demonstrated against the right and its ideology of racism, xenophobia and hate.

 

Across the state, which is home to less than one million people, protests took place in the state capital Saarbrücken and many smaller towns including Neunkirchen, St Wendel and St Ingbert. On Sunday, 17 March, around 3,000 people took to the streets in Saarbrücken to protest against right-wing extremism. They marched through the city centre. Everything went peacefully, said a police spokesman in Saarbrücken. An alliance called ‘Against the AfD and racism’, which is supported by around 20 groups, had called for the action. (The AfD or Alternative für Deutschland, is the country’s principal far-right party.)

 

Anti-right protests also took place in rural areas of Saarland. Around 250 demonstrators gathered on the market square in Wadern for a protest on Saturday afternoon (16 March). They stood up for an open society. Under the motto "The Hochwald remains colourful", protesters followed the call of a broad alliance of local organisations in the rural Hochwald district.

 

The organisers, which included an alliance of church communities, saw the rally on Saturday as a prelude to similar actions that are to take place in other rural districts over the coming weekends. The aim is to stand together against the shift to the right in politics and society.

 

Separately, Saarland’s business associations and trade unions issued a rare joint statement, warning against the rise of right-wing extremism. “The far right is damaging the local economy and will make Saarland less attractive to investors. Existing jobs will be lost, new ones not created.”

 

Related pages: Germans against the far-right | German mayors against the right | Descendants of German resistance fighters |

 

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NATIONWIDE FARMERS' PROTESTS

Faced with more protests, German parliament seeks talks with farmers

January 2024: Given the protests by German farmers, the parliamentary leaders of the governing coalition parties – Social Democrats, Free Democrats and the Greens - have invited the farmers' organisations to talks. In a letter, the parliamentarians suggested that the focus of the talks should be on the economic concerns of farmers.

 

This week (11 January), farmers in many parts of Germany are protesting and demonstrating against the government's plans to cut agricultural subsidies. German farmers are particularly angry about the gradual reduction of subsidies for agricultural diesel. The German government is now planning to phase out the tax concessions for agricultural diesel, which have been in place for more than 70 years, gradually over three years rather than abolishing it in one fell swoop as was originally proposed.

 

Protests have started again today (11 January). In Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania, for example, tractors blocked several motorway slip roads and convoys of agricultural vehicles also caused obstructions. In Hamburg, hundreds of tractors from the surrounding area were on their way to the city’s port area. Protests were also planned in Frankfurt am Main, Hanover, Karlsruhe and Cottbus, where Federal Chancellor Olaf Scholz (SPD) is expected to attend the opening of a new railway station. He plans to meet with representatives of the state farmers' association on the fringes of the event.

 

Meanwhile, Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania's Minister of Agriculture, Till Backhaus, together with representatives of the state's farmers and fishing associations, presented a compromise paper to end the nationwide farmers' protests. Both sides are in favour of a federally funded transition to alternative fuels. The switch to renewable energies in agriculture needs time and perspective, said Backhaus. That is why the Minister does not want to reduce the subsidy cuts for agricultural diesel until after 2027. At the same time, the round table called for incentives to switch to alternative fuels such as biogas or biodiesel.

 

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Farmers' protests lead to traffic blockades and jams in many parts of Germany

January 2024: Since Monday morning (January 8, 2024), German farmers in many parts of the country have been protesting against the German government's agricultural policy.

 

The nationwide farmers' protests have begun with blockades at motorway exits and tractor convoys in cities. In Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania (northeastern Germany), farmers blocked motorway entrances with hundreds of tractors. The protesting farmers were supported by haulage companies protesting against the increase in motorway tolls.

 

In parts of Baden-Württemberg (southwestern Germany), tractors blocked several motorways in unannounced demonstration. In the district of Cloppenburg in northwestern Lower Saxony, a motorway (Autobahn) was blocked by 40 agricultural vehicles. In Saxony, some motorway entrances in the Dresden area were closed to traffic. In Bavaria, the police reported traffic obstructions in many places, because of lane closures or blocked motorway access roads.

 

There were also further blockages and traffic obstructions caused by slow-moving tractor convoys in practically all federal states from southern Germany to Rhineland-Palatinate, North Rhine-Westphalia and Schleswig-Holstein.

 

Protests are also taking place in major cities. In Hamburg and Bremen, large convoys of tractors lead to widespread traffic jams. According to demonstration organisers, some 2,000 tractors plan to congregate in urban districts. Protesters with around 200 tractors and trucks gathered at the Brandenburg Gate in Berlin in the early morning of Monday (8 January).

 

Several state ministries of education announced that pupils would be excused if they were unable to make it to class because of the demonstrations.

 

A spokesman for the German Farmers' Association (Deutscher Bauernverband) asked the motoring public for patience. "We ask the public for their understanding. We do not want to lose the great support and solidarity that we have been receiving from large sections of society.” The Association has called for a week of action against the removal of tax and other subsidies enjoyed by the agricultural sector. A major bone of contention is the removal of tax concessions for agricultural diesel.

 

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VOTING AGE

Berlin state parliament lowers voting age to 16

December 2023: Young people in Berlin will be able to vote from next year as soon as they turn 16. The city state's parliament decided to lower the voting age from 18 to 16. Because this decision required an amendment to the state constitution, it needed the approval of a broad parliamentary majority. The supporters of the CDU, SPD, Greens and Left all argue that this would strengthen democracy and give younger people more political participation.

 

Main political parties in Germany

CDU: Christian Democrats (Christlich Demokratische Union) conservative, centre-right

SPD: Social Democrats (Sozialdemokratische Partei Deutschland), centre-left, progressive

Grünen: Greens (Die Grünen), green, centre-left, progressive

FDP: Liberals (Freie Demokratische Partei) liberal, centrist

Die Linke: The Left (Die Linke), leftist

AfD: Alternative for Germany (Alternative für Deutschland), far-right.

 

"Young people have to bear the consequences of today’s political decisions for a long time to come. Now they are also involved in the decision-making," said Green politician Klara Schedlich, who, according to her parliamentary group, is the youngest member of the Berlin parliament, at the age of 23. "We have a reason to celebrate today, all democrats in this House." The far-right AfD voted against lowering the voting age.

 

Following Berlin’s decision, the city is the seventh German federal state in which people aged 16 and over can vote at state level. The next state elections are scheduled for 2026. In the majority of federal states, 16-year-olds are already allowed to vote in local elections. In Baden-Württemberg, Brandenburg, Bremen, Hamburg, Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania and Schleswig-Holstein, this also applies to state elections. The right to vote from the age of 16 also applies to the 2024 European elections.

 

In the February 2023 Berlin state elections, the majority of 18 to 24-year-olds voted for progressive parties. Most popular were the Greens (22%), followed by the Left (18%). In third place was the CDU (12%), followed by the SPD (11%), FDP (8%) and AfD (7%).

 

Among the over-70s, 40% voted for the CDU, followed by the SPD (30%), the Left (11%), the AfD (7%) and the Greens (6%). The FDP was supported by 3% of this age group.

 

Political scientists are calling for a uniform voting age for all elections in Germany, and many parties are also in favour of lowering it, namely the FDP, Greens, SPD and Left Party. The current German coalition government would like to set the minimum voting age for the upcoming parliamentary (Bundestag) elections at 16. However, the voting age is enshrined in the German constitution and therefore cannot be changed by a simple majority. And the two-thirds majority required for a reform is not in sight as long as the CDU is against the changes. The far-right AfD is also opposed to lowering the voting age at federal level.

 

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