Last week a survey found that young people regard drugs as just another consumable. In Germany there are plans to allow cannabis sales across the chemist's counter.

The pharmacists of Kiel, Lubeck, Hanover and Hamburg could soon become meccas for the cannabis connoisseur. The north German state of Schleswig-Holstein, tucked up by the Danish border, is an uncontroversial place. Kiel, its capital, is best known for its annual international regatta. Lubeck, the state's second city - birthplace of Thomas Mann, and city of marzipan-makers - retains the quaint medieval charm of a Hanseatic port.

But Schleswig-Holstein retains a cussed non-conformity. The state has come up with a set of proposals that could have a historic impact on German and European drug law for years to come: making it possible to buy up to 30g of cannabis products at a time, at the corner pharmacy. The idea is summarised in the unanimous German headlines: "Hash at the chemist".

The state is not alone in seeking to bring cannabis more into the mainstream. In a sense, the Schleswig-Holstein proposals are equivalent to the famous coffee-shops in Amsterdam, with their pot price lists. In the US, Cannabis Buyers' Clubs have sprung up across the country - 26 at the last count - which allow gravely ill members to buy and smoke pot without fear of legal reprisals. A doctor's letter of diagnosis and an ID card are all people need to join.

Many liberal German politicians were attracted to the Amsterdam model, not least because it clearly separates soft drugs from the hard-drug market. The idea is that by channelling sales through tolerated outlets, the cannabis-buyer does not need to have dealings with criminal drug-sellers - who might persuade customers to graduate to more expensive and lethal habits.

There is a crucial difference between the system which operates in the Netherlands and the new German proposals. The Dutch tolerate the coffee- shop owner's sale of cannabis but the original bulk sale to the licensed coffee-shop owner remains a crime under Dutch law. It just happens not to be prosecuted. Such legal contradictions would be unthinkable in Germany.

The Schleswig-Holstein proposals unleashed a fierce debate after a soundbite-loving judge ruled that every citizen has a Recht auf Rausch - a "right to intoxication" whether from alcohol or cannabis. The constitutional court in Karlsruhe disagreed. But the judges also ruled, in the spring of last year, that the possession of "small" amounts of cannabis products, though still against the law, should not be punishable. Or, as one official put it, "The police are obliged to take your details, and to report you. And the state prosecutors then throw that piece of paper in the bin."

Conservatives were furious. After the Karlsruhe judgment, the mass-circulation daily Bild published a huge photograph of a heroin addict, dead on the floor of a Berlin station toilet, with the banner headline: "She, too, started with hashish!"

For the law-makers, though, a different problem arose: how small is "small"? Answer: Germany's regional structure of governance means that each of the 16 states was entitled to come up with its own definition. The conservative Bavarians reckoned that "small" meant 10g (they would rather have settled for zero, but that would have meant defying the omniscient court in Karlsruhe); the Schleswig-Holsteiners, and others, settled for 30g.

Then, as though this was not already confusing enough, Wolfgang Neskovic - the Lubecker judge who had already gained a measure of notoriety with his Recht auf Rausch judgment - came back into the headlines once more, with the suggestion that several kilos might be described as a "small" amount. "If you buy that many potatoes at a time," he seemed to suggest, "then why not hashish?"

It was at that point that the politicians decided that some order needed to be brought to the whole affair. At the end of last year, Germany's regional governments entrusted Schleswig-Holstein with the job of breaking the legal gridlock. Which is where the chemists come in.

The chemists are reckoned to be professionally competent, and able to ensure the quality and quantity of the product on sale. Also, as a spokeswoman for Schleswig-Holstein's health ministry notes: "Pharmacists are a respectable profession. They're not just ageing hippies, who want a smoke." For the moment, it is proposed that a "field experiment" should begin in Schleswig- Holstein and elsewhere in north Germany. Neighbouring regions, including Hamburg and the large state of Lower Saxony, have expressed their willingness to participate.

But the impact of the scheme is unlikely to stop at Schleswig-Holstein's borders. The official proposals, due to be unveiled in a few weeks' time, would in due course go to the federal parliament to be enshrined in national legislation. But, as one German official noted: we don't want to make ourselves unpopular by encouraging dodgy imports which would anger the rest of Europe. Thus, the Germans, to ensure that they will not be in breach of European and international regulations, are considering suggesting that every other state in Europe should modify agreements covering the drug trade to allow Germany to import the weed.

If Britain's future is within Europe, then, given the power of the Germans, surely it can only be a matter of time before the Schleswig-Holstein Apothekenmodell becomes a model for the rest of the continent. So it's not inconceivable that in a future harmonised Europe, Boots, too, would be legally able to offer a selection of quality Lebanese and Afghan products, alongside the Strepsils, aspirins, and Mates.

Arts and Entertainment
The cast of The Big Bang Theory in a still from the show
tvBig Bang Theory filming delayed by contract dispute over actors' pay
News
peopleGuitarist, who played with Aerosmith, Lou Reed and Alice Cooper among others, was 71
News
Robyn Lawley
people
News
people
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
ebookA wonderful selection of salads, starters and mains featuring venison, grouse and other game
News
i100  ... he was into holy war way before it was on trend
Life and Style
lifeDon't get caught up on climaxing
Life and Style
food + drinkVegetarians enjoy food as much as anyone else, writes Susan Elkin
Arts and Entertainment
Harry Potter (Daniel Radcliffe), Hermione Granger (Emma Watson) and Ron Weasley (Rupert Grint)
newsBloomsbury unveils new covers for JK Rowling's wizarding series
News
scienceScientists try to explain the moon's funny shape
Sport
Usain Bolt confirms he will run in both the heats and the finals of the men's relay at the Commonwealth Games
commonwealth games
News
peopleHowards' Way actress, and former mistress of Jeffrey Archer, was 60
Life and Style
Troy Baker and Ashley Johnson voice the show’s heroes
gamingOnce stilted and melodramatic, Hollywood is giving acting in video games a makeover
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
As Loki in The Avengers (2012)
filmRead Tom Hiddleston's email to Joss Whedon on prospect of playing Loki
Voices
voices In defence of the charcoal-furred feline, by Felicity Morse
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs General

    Education Recruitment Consultant- Learning Support

    £18000 - £30000 per annum + Generous commission scheme: AER Teachers: Thames T...

    All Primary NQT's

    £100 - £120 per day + per day: Randstad Education Leeds: Description Calling a...

    DT Teacher - Food Technology

    £100 - £145 per day + Pension and travel: Randstad Education Maidstone: SUPPLY...

    Supply Teachers Needed in Thetford

    £21000 - £35000 per annum: Randstad Education Cambridge: Supply teachers neede...

    Day In a Page

    Save the tiger: The day America’s love of backyard tigers led to a horrific bloodbath

    The day America’s love of backyard tigers led to a horrific bloodbath

    With only six per cent of the US population of these amazing big cats held in zoos, the Zanesville incident in 2011 was inevitable
    Samuel Beckett's biographer reveals secrets of the writer's time as a French Resistance spy

    How Samuel Beckett became a French Resistance spy

    As this year's Samuel Beckett festival opens in Enniskillen, James Knowlson, recalls how the Irish writer risked his life for liberty and narrowly escaped capture by the Gestapo
    We will remember them: relatives still honour those who fought in the Great War

    We will remember them

    Relatives still honour those who fought in the Great War
    Star Wars Episode VII is being shot on film - and now Kodak is launching a last-ditch bid to keep celluloid alive

    Kodak's last-ditch bid to keep celluloid alive

    Director J J Abrams and a few digital refuseniks shoot movies on film. Simon Usborne wonders what the fuss is about
    Once stilted and melodramatic, Hollywood is giving acting in video games a makeover

    Acting in video games gets a makeover

    David Crookes meets two of the genre's most popular voices
    Could our smartphones soon be diagnosing diseases via Health Kit and Google Fit?

    Could smartphones soon be diagnosing diseases?

    Health Kit and Google Fit have been described as "the beginning of a health revolution"
    Ryanair has turned on the 'charm offensive' but can we learn to love the cut-price carrier again?

    Can we learn to love Ryanair again?

    Four recent travellers give their verdicts on the carrier's improved customer service
    Billionaire founder of Spanx launches range of jeans that offers

    Spanx launches range of jeans

    The jeans come in two styles, multiple cuts and three washes and will go on sale in the UK in October
    10 best over-ear headphones

    Aural pleasure: 10 best over-ear headphones

    Listen to your favourite tracks with this selection, offering everything from lambskin earmuffs to stainless steel
    Commonwealth Games 2014: David Millar ready to serve up gold for his beloved Scotland in the end

    Commonwealth Games

    David Millar ready to serve up gold for his beloved Scotland in the end
    UCI Mountain Bike World Cup 2014: Downhill all the way to the top for the Atherton siblings

    UCI Mountain Bike World Cup

    Downhill all the way to the top for the Atherton siblings
    Save the tiger: The animals bred for bones on China’s tiger farms

    The animals bred for bones on China’s tiger farms

    The big cats kept in captivity to perform for paying audiences and then, when dead, their bodies used to fortify wine
    A former custard factory, a Midlands bog and a Leeds cemetery all included in top 50 hidden spots in the UK

    A former custard factory, a Midlands bog and a Leeds cemetery

    Introducing the top 50 hidden spots in Britain
    Ebola epidemic: Plagued by fear

    Ebola epidemic: Plagued by fear

    How a disease that has claimed fewer than 2,000 victims in its history has earned a place in the darkest corner of the public's imagination
    Chris Pratt: From 'Parks and Recreation' to 'Guardians of the Galaxy'

    From 'Parks and Recreation' to 'Guardians of the Galaxy'

    He was homeless in Hawaii when he got his big break. Now the comic actor Chris Pratt is Hollywood's new favourite action star