Berlin votes to open first coffee shop
The war on drugs is one that is failing, and more politicians are beginning to realise it. At the initiative of Mayor Monika Hermann, the city council of Berlin has voted to open up Germany’s first legal coffee shop.
The move comes not precisely from a desire to make cannabis more accessible, but to take power out of the hands of organised crime. Authorities dedicate and waste countless hours and large amounts of tax payers’ money trying to combat crime associated with cannabis, largely to no effect. The crime itself does not come from the actual cannabis, but the violence and organised crime that go with its prohibition. By giving people the option to obtain it legally, it will minimise the power of gangs, it frees up government resources and gives users a safe access.
It is within the Friedrichshain-Kreuzberg area of Berlin, where the intended experiment will take place, much in the same way as Amsterdam. As the law stands, the cultivation and sale of marijuana is illegal, but possession of small amounts are tolerated. Under the new law, any adult will be able to legally obtain it through a coffee shop.
The vote was largely spurred by the infamous Görlitzer Park within the region. It is within this park that the local authorities must spend their time, busting drug deals. According to Mayor Hermann, the police have raided the park 113 times and arrested 984 people since the beginning of the year.
The vote that was put forward by Mayor Hermann, and voted in favour by the council, will look to use a special clause within Germany’s strict prohibition laws. This clause states that substances classed as narcotics (which cannabis is in Germany), may only be sold when it is in the public’s interest. By passing the vote, the council has now put in an application to the Federal Institute for Drugs and Medical Devices. If given the go ahead, it should see the Friedrichshain-Kreuzberg as the first in Germany to obtain a coffee shop!
There are still obstacles that will need to be addressed, however. For a start, it is still not clear who will run the coffee shop and where the cannabis will come from. Will it be imported from somewhere like the Netherlands like it is in the Czech Republic? There are still a lot of questions to be answered.
Whatever the case, the fact that a German council would vote in favour of creating a legal source of marijuana is a huge step forward for legalisation campaigners. It is a bit too soon to tell exactly what is going to happen. Maybe the government will take an interest and squash the marijuana initiative before it can take root, or maybe we are seeing the beginning of decriminalisation in Germany – only time will tell.