Germany moves ahead with plan to legalize cannabis sales

BERLIN (AP) — The German government is setting in motion plans to legalize the sale of cannabis for recreational purposes, aiming to have legislation ready later this year.

The Health Ministry said Monday that it will start holding expert hearings on various aspects of the issue Tuesday. It said that more than 200 representatives from the medical, legal and other fields will take part, along with officials from various levels of government and unidentified international experts.

The pledge to legalize controlled sales of cannabis to adults in licensed shops is one of a series of reforms outlined in last year’s coalition deal between the three socially liberal parties that make up Chancellor Olaf Scholz’s government.

They said the plan would ensure quality control while also protecting young people, and agreed that the “social effects” of the new legislation would be examined after four years.

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Scholz’s coalition took office in December. In early May, Health Minister Karl Lauterbach said that he planned to draw up draft legislation in the year’s second half following the hearings with experts.

The five hearings, which will be held through the end of this month, will address what measures are needed to ensure the best protection for young people and of health and consumers, government drug czar Burkhard Blienert said.

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“Like many others, I have worked for years toward us in Germany finally ending the criminalization of cannabis consumers and beginning a modern and health-oriented cannabis policy,” he said in a statement.

Among other liberalizing plans, the government has launched a drive to remove from Germany’s criminal code a ban on doctors “advertising” abortion services. It also wants to ease the path to German citizenship, lift restrictions on dual citizenship and reduce the minimum age for voting in national and European elections from 18 to 16.

The government also wants to scrap 40-year-old legislation that requires transsexual people to get a psychological assessment and a court decision before officially changing gender, a process that often involves intimate questions. It is due to be replaced with a new “self-determination law.”

MADRID (AP) — Spain’s economy minister on Monday linked Algeria’s decision to break a decades-old friendship treaty with Spain that has frozen economic links with what she described as the North African country’s increasing alignment with Russia.

In an interview with Catalunya Radio, Nadia Calviño said that in recent International Monetary Fund meetings she has chaired, she noticed “that Algeria was more and more aligned with Russia, and as such, it (the decision) didn’t surprise me.”

Algeria suspended the two-decade-old friendship treaty with Spain last Wednesday.

The move was seen as retaliation after Madrid came out in support of Morocco’s attempts to keep Western Sahara under its rule. Algeria supports the territory’s independence movement.

On Friday, the EU warned it was prepared to take action to defend the interests of its members.

Algeria then appeared to do a U-turn when its mission at the European Union issued a statement saying the country had never suspended the treaty.

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Algeria continues to block trade, however, and the Algerian Foreign Ministry on Saturday called the European response “hasty and unfounded.” In a strongly worded communique, it added that the issue was “a political disagreement of a bilateral nature” between Madrid and Algiers that should not concern the EU.

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Calviño welcomed the EU move, adding that the treaty suspensions would be a drag on the Spanish economy. She said “the most important thing at this moment is that Algeria changes its position and retreats.”

Spanish officials say they are hopeful that talks with Algeria will resolve the issue soon.

Spain’s chief worry has been that the suspension might affect important gas supplies from Algeria, but both the Spanish and Algerian governments have said this won’t happen. Algeria supplies 23% of Spain’s gas needs.

Spain and the rest of the 27-nation bloc are hustling to find alternatives to Russian energy imports to protest Russia’s war in Ukraine.

Industry Ministry figures show Spain exported 2 billion euros ($2.1 billion) in goods to Algeria last year while its imports were valued at nearly 5 billion euros.

Spain was the colonial power in Western Sahara until it was annexed by Morocco in 1975. Since then, neighbors Algeria and Morocco have been at odds over the fate of the region.