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Cannabis users 'will have a new place within our society': Germany legalises home cultivation

In a large grey facility just outside the East German city of Dresden, security is tight.

The large metal door which bars the bright white corridors is the same type used to protect Germany's gold reserves.

Behind it, Demecan grows cannabis for medical use, something that became legal in 2017.

The strict security is due to the fact the drug is classed as a narcotic under German law.

But today that will change, with a new law decriminalising possession and home cultivation, a change managing director Dr Philipp Goebel hopes to capitalise on.

"For us, it was very good news when this law was passed," he said.

"Now we are allowed to grow more cannabis, which we can then also sell directly to the pharmacies.

"And the second part, which is very important to the patients, is that cannabis now is declassified.

"It's not a narcotic product anymore, which means that any doctor can now prescribe it."

Under the new law, adults will be allowed to possess up to 25g of the drug in public, hold 50g at home and grow a maximum of three plants.

From July, private "cannabis clubs" can supply 500 members on a limited basis.

"It's not the law we expected," said Steffen Geyer, a long-time cannabis activist and head of the association of Cannabis Social Clubs, "but it's a good law because we will have 180,000 less prosecutions in the next year".

He added: "That will be a big relief for cannabis consumers.

"You can have 25g of cannabis with you without being in fear of arrest and fear of problems with the police.

"Cannabis consumers will have a new place within our society.

"We will no longer be the black sheep of the recreational community.

"We will be just like the people who use alcohol, or use chocolate, or coffee or tea."

But there are restrictions.

For example, a person has to be over 18 and smoking around areas such as playgrounds and sports centres is not allowed.

The potency of the THC, the psychoactive substance that makes you high, will also be limited, especially for under 21s.

To avoid "drug tourism" the only way to obtain recreational cannabis will be to grow it at home or via "cannabis clubs."

In both cases, people have to have been resident in Germany for at least six months.

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Getting the new law across the line has been quite a battle.

The government has claimed it will help curb the black market, tackle drug crime and ensure a safe, quality product but opponents say it ignores health risks, especially for young people.

"At the moment, the justice system, the police and local government are voicing a lot of criticism because the new law cannot be enforced properly," said Erwin Rüddel, opposition Christian Democratic Union politician and head of the parliamentary health committee.

"There are worries over the effect that the consumption of cannabis has on the mental health of people under the age of 25, and the fact that it is impossible to control if someone has 25 grams or 30 grams in their possession.

"Then there is the issue of controlling the 'cannabis clubs' and controlling if someone is really only growing three plants at home."

His party has pledged to repeal the law if it gets back into power next year.

A recent poll showed the public is also divided, with a slim majority against it.

In a YouGov poll, 42% of respondents said they were somewhat or completely in favour of legalisation, while 47% said they were somewhat or completely against it.

Another 11% had no answer.

"I think it's bad because of the youth. It's dangerous," one male shopper in Berlin told us.

But a woman we spoke to said: "I think it's a good thing. Now they can ensure it's good quality and now the state can get the tax from it."

Supporters of the new law plan to welcome it with a "smoke in" at the Brandenburg Gate.

From 11:30 pm (10.30pm UK time) on Sunday evening, people have been invited to gather to smoke marijuana in public - but only when the law comes into force, according to German press agency DPA.

Despite some concerns, this is just the first step in a two-part plan.

If successful, it could pave the way for pilot projects allowing state-controlled cannabis to be sold in some licensed shops.