Germany’s Drug Official Hints at Reducing Penalties

Germany’s drug commissioner  is taking serious steps toward the decriminalization of drug-related trivial offenses.

Marlene Mortler, Germany’s drug commissioner, on Tuesday, May 15, 2018, presented results in Berlin of the study “Drug-Driven Deaths in Germany,” which reported that the number of drug-related deaths has been declining for the first time since 2012.  And a second report shows Mortler may be warming to the idea of decriminalization.

“Anyone caught by the police in the future for possession of cannabis for personal consumption should be allowed to choose whether to pay a fine or voluntarily seek help from the expert,” she said, according to a report in the Munich newspaper Süddeutsche Zeitung.

In discussions  about drug policy in Germany and the continuing criminalization of consumers, Mortler’s name is frequently mentioned — particularly when it comes to the decriminalization of small amounts of cannabis for personal use.

New Record High in Cannabis Offenses

Mortler and the Federal Criminal Police Office presented the Police Crime Statistics (PKS) 2017. The data show the number of cannabis offenses in 2017 reached a  record. In the 2017 calendar year, 209,204 cases were investigated for cannabis, compared with 183,015 in 2016, an increase of more than 14 percent Of the 2017 cases, 166,232 were consumer and small-quantity possession offenses, or nearly 79.5 percent of all cases; the remainder were drug dealing, trafficking, smuggling, or large-quantity possession cases. In comparison, 145,915 consumer and small-quantity possession offenses were recorded in 2016, representing about 79.7 percent of all cases; the remaining 37,100 were for dealing, trafficking, smuggling, or large-quantity possession.

In total, cannabis offenses account for 3.9 percent of all criminal offenses recorded in Germany and are one of the most common causes of investigations by the PKS. The total number of drug-related offenses has jumped to 321,757, an increase over the 302,594 reported in 2016. That’s a year-over-year increase of 6.3 percent.

The plans to reduce offenses to fines or counseling instead of criminal penalties would be a step more progressive than  countries such as Switzerland, the Czech Republic or Spain, where small-quantity possession comes with a steep fine. In those countries, consumers don’t have the option of treatment. Swiss authorities take in 100 francs, or $100.28 US dollars, for each cannabis violation. In the Czech Republic a violation costs up to 547 euros ($643.98 US dollars); in Spain, a public cannabis consumption violation costs at least 300 euros ($353.19 US dollars). A euro is $1.18 US dollars based on exchange rates Friday, May 18, 2018.

This will not be the first time  Mortler has raised feathers within her Christian Democratic Union and Christian Social Union in Bavaria (CDU/CSU) parties.. Mortler was the first CDU/CSU politician to signal that the federal government’s has been relentless on the issue of medical cannabis.

If the federal government implements Mortler’s ideas, it would be an unexpected drug policy move for the governing coalition of the conservatives and the center-left Social Democratic Party (SPD).

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