Not only will medical cannabis be available from pharmacies in Germany next year to eligible patients, but the public health system will cover the cost.
The ABC reported yesterday the German Government will permit dried cannabis flowers and cannabis extracts to be available in pharmacies on prescription for seriously ill patients who have no other treatment options.
Medical cannabis is already available in Germany, but only with special approval from the Federal Institute for Drugs and Medical Devices and patients are required to cover the cost. Given the complexity of the program, few bothered with it – just a few hundred people were registered a year ago.
The poor enrolment rate may have also had something to do with Germany’s reasonably soft possession laws. Possession of up to six grams is not prosecuted in most regions and in Berlin the non-prosecutable amount is 15 grams.
Germany’s controls over medical cannabis haven’t been set in stone for some time. In 2014, a number of patients took legal action to gain permission to grow their own medical marijuana. While they already had permits to use cannabis medications, they wished to grow their own to reduce the costs associated with treatment. Two of the plaintiffs were successful.
For the new program, Germany’s government will eventually set up its own plantations to service the program, but will import immediate requirements in the interim.
Among the other European countries where medical cannabis is now legal are the Czech Republic and Italy.
Medical use of cannabis on prescription has been legal and regulated in the Czech Republic since April 2013.
Italy also permitted the medical use of cannabis with a prescription in 2013. Much of the supply was being imported from the Netherlands and was very expensive. To bring down the cost, the Italian Army was commissioned in 2014 to cultivate medical cannabis at a military pharmaceutical plant in Florence.
Several other European countries have decriminalised the use of marijuana (small quantities) for medical and recreational use and more countries just for medicinal applications.
In some other European nations, cannabis is illegal, but its use tolerated and prosecution for possession of small amounts is quite rare.