Cannabis Activists Force Debate, Crash Bundestag Server

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Cannabis Activists Force Debate, Crash Bundestag Server

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Cannabis Activists Force Debate, Crash Bundestag Server

By Michael Knodt
December 1st, 2017 b

Bundestag in Germany

For the first time in the history of the Federal Republic of Germany, the German Hemp Association (DHV) has reached the required quorum of 50,000 signatures for an official petition for cannabis legalization, forcing the German Bundestag to debate the matter.

Last week, a delegation of the DHV submitted 46,507 signatures on paper lists to the Chairwoman of the Petitions Committee of the German Bundestag, Kersten Steinke, to add to the 31,816 online-signatures submitted prior to Nov. 21, for a total of 78,323 signatures. It is still unclear whether the number of signatures breached the 80,000 mark by the subscription deadline of Nov. 24, as the signatures are still under review by the Petitions Committee.

Kersten Steinke and Georg Wurth, courtesy of the German Hemp Association
Photo courtesy of Crispin Bleick

Most Successful Entry of the Year

The German Hemp Association had convinced its numerous chapters and many private individuals nationwide to collect signatures for legalization in their spare time in person and on their online networks. Since September, the Hemp Association’s office in Berlin has received dozens of envelopes every day containing signatures in support of legalization. There were so many last-minute signatures that the Bundestag’s server collapsed shortly before the end of the subscription period. Despite these problems, the cannabis petition, with just under 80,000 supporters and counting, is considered the most successful petition of 2017.

“Not only is it the most successful petition for the legalization of cannabis in the Bundestag, it definitely is also one of the top 15 petitions that will have big influence on political debate in the coming years,” DHVs Deputy CEO Florian Rister said of the petition.

Petition: The Little Sister of the Referendum

Petitions on private platforms such as, Avaaz, and Open Petition often cause a large publicity impact but are not binding legally or politically. Because there are no referendums at the federal level in Germany, a petition right was enshrined in the constitutional law. A parliamentary petition is a letter to an authority or parliament where citizens can complain about decisions within the democratic process or try to influence the modification of existing laws.

Unlike in many countries, anyone can sign a German parliamentary petition, regardless of age, nationality or place of residence. Immigrants without German citizenship, minors, and even foreigners with a registered address somewhere abroad may choose to sign either digitally or analogously. (Sounds funny, but it is true). Any petition that reaches the quorum must be introduced and discussed in the German Bundestag. Despite the relatively low hurdles, petitioners rarely mobilize to receive the required number of supporters. Since 2009, the Bundestag has received 13 petitions aimed at changing cannabis legislation.

None of the previously submitted proposals has reached the required number of signatures. After all, you do not need not much more than an internet connection and a little rage in the belly to submit such a petition. But many former pedants failed to consider the value of local supporters, a working network, and real money to be able to conduct basic recruitment efforts in the streets and online. The second strongest of the 13 petitions in 2010 was also initiated by the DHV. Although cannabis was still a political sideshow at the time, 21,000 supporters scored a respectable success for the movement in 2010.

Of course, the only binding character of the current petition is that the topic must be added to the agenda of debated issues in the Bundestag. Whether cannabis is legalized or not will still be decided by the Members of Parliament and the future government leadership.

When it comes to the current formation of Germany’s government, the prospects are not too rosy in terms of cannabis. The Jamaica coalition was expected to consider cannabis legalization a relevant topic, but alliance negotiations were recently canceled. The next government will probably again be formed by CDU and SPD, which have not demonstrated a positive attitude toward legalization in the past.

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