Mary-Jane Berlin on Cannabis Culture: Legalization, Growing and Politics

Lately the debate about Cannabis is circulating more vehemently than ever, how legalization can positively impact not only the individuals who smoke it but also the overall community, including non-smokers. And so I went to see Mary Jane Berlin to find out what Germans have to say about it.

Yes, I had my first Cannabis Cider, took home a handful of roasted hemp, witnessed the biggest joint ever, and acquired the personal contacts to be able to start my own weed farm in the event that everything else doesn’t work out.

In the already 27+ degrees of Berlin summer, surrounded by dozens of dread-heads per square kilometer and a trashy festival atmosphere, I entered the realm of weed. I was completely startled to see people of all ages interested in not only meeting with possible dealers, but also middle-aged parents with their legal-aged kids mingling, puzzled, though the stalls. People were sampling Cannabis ice-cream and testing the biggest tents with lamps or LEDs with an inquisitiveness out of this world for some or with huge grins painted on others.

Traders from all over Europe as well as from USA, the State of Colorado came to showcase their products with complete attention to detail for the persistent customers wanting to know the amount of THC in everything exposed from soap to panties. Although there were plenty who knew exactly what they’d come for, there were also many who weren’t quite sure about the legality of the products about to be purchased, and so the exhibitors were making sure the info was clear and where the responsibility lies between getting a fun face cream and going all hardcore Walter White.

The most eye-catching goods included the high-class Swiss cosmetics from weed that contain a miraculous amount of THC (though under the legal level, naturally, 0,001%) that makes your face look smooth as a baby’s bottom, as well as local Brandenburg-made Cannabidiol, oil and flavored essences that would inspire any non-believer to bathe sacredly three times a day like Cleopatra. And, of course, the hippie Austrian hemp clothes were a big hit with nomadic Berlin fashionistas.

For growers, well, here things were a little bit different than simply buying your new spa treatment or a pair of shorts. Although growing is still very much illegal in Germany, from the producer’s point of view Berlin can be a huge market. If you walk around the parks at Görlitzer or Hasenheide, the smell of marijuana on the street would confirm that Berlin already has a substantial demand for, not to mention offer of, “green”. Note that in Berlin, for example, you can possess up to 15g for personal use without fearing prison, but you can get one month to four years in jail for procuring it. Despite the fact that most of the countries in Europe have a formal national law that makes it illegal, most of the time, when caught by police, possession in small quantities results in just a warning.

Here at Mary Jane Berlin, a lot of the seed producers don’t shy away from showcasing their most popular strains of Satvia, from “White Widow”, “Amnesia”, and “Haze”, to others quite obscure. But when asked if they ever encounter problems selling seeds to countries where the drug is still banned, the producers embraced a “hands off” attitude over the responsibility. Even though growing can still be a crime, in the end, a lot of people are willing to take a risk in ordering a 5cm package no questions asked. In terms of growing accessories, the variety of tents with custom-made lighting was dazzling, and a bit surreal.

Hypothetically speaking, if you were to grow your own weed, Austrian writer Alice Legit can give you some tips on how to grow some “skunk” instead of boring old balcony tomatoes. It was fascinating to hear insights from a specialist who compares dope with “Lebensmittel” (food) so that the audience understands the importance of what we put in our bodies, regardless of its use. It goes without saying that she preached, even for Cannabis, caring, fertilizer-free methods. And a special anti-spiders tip—cut the lower leaves of the plant and add sand to the pot in order to create ventilation.

At the moment, Germany is still one of the European countries which has not legalized weed, despite 83.8% of people who say Yes to both recreational and medical use, according to this study, and the last year’s rejected attempt by the mayor of Kreuzberg-Friedrichshain, Monika Herman from the Green Party, to legalize cannabis cafés like those in Amsterdam.

The event saw a lot of debate from activists, journalists, and law specialists too, pointing out the huge hypocrisy in the criminalization of drugs, and that maintaining the illegal classification of weed creates a bigger political agenda where governments themselves benefit from a “War on Drugs”, not to mention big pharmaceutical companies and alcohol producers don’t want to jeopardize their profits.

But the topic of legalizing marijuana is not coming out of the blue. This has been a massive debate at the international political level, so much so that this April the United Nations organized a general assembly on the topic of drugs (UNGASS), the first since the Convention on Psychotropic Substances in 1971. Translated into policy, proclaimed the assembly, the legalization of marijuana doesn’t mean only access to the drug for recreational or medical use. It can also translate into potentially huge revenues for the state from its taxation and the ability to redirect money spent on prohibitionist policies into more important sectors like health care, poverty assistance, or education.

Looking at the bigger picture, countries like Mexico, Colombia, or the Philippines suffer yearly from violence in narco-trafficking, and the war on drugs contributes each year to the shortening of life expectancy in these countries.

The resolution of this assembly currently prefers its prohibition policies, putting all drugs in the same pot. But how Berlin and Germany would act upon the legalization of marijuana is still to be decided.

By Eliza Marin
Photos by Eliza Marin
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