German opposition may ease drug laws

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BONN - Politicians from the ruling coalition parties reacted angrily yesterday to the suggestion that possession of small amounts of cocaine and heroin should no longer be a prosecutable offence, writes Steve Crawshaw.

The Justice Minister in the Social Democrat-ruled state of North Rhine-Westphalia, Rolf Krumsiek, unleashed a storm with his declaration that the consumption of small amounts of hard drugs should not be a punishable crime.

Michael Glos, leader of the parliamentary group of the Christian Democrats' Bavarian sister party, the CSU, said it was 'intolerable' that Johannes Rau, the Prime Minister of North Rhine-Westphalia and Social Democrat (SPD) candidate for German president, has failed to condemn the comments. Horst Eylmann, the leader of the parliamentary justice committee, complained that North Rhine-Westphalia was legalising hard drugs 'through the back door'.

A decision by Germany's constitutional court has led, in effect, to the legalisation of cannabis in small amounts, by recommending that such cases should not be prosecuted. The court called for a nationwide agreement on what 'small' should mean.

The front-page headline in the conservative Die Welt yesterday announced: 'With an SPD victory, cocaine and heroin will be allowed.'