High time? German MPs legalize medical marijuana for severely ill
The German parliament has adopted an amendment to drugs regulations that will make marijuana legal for severely ill people. Prescriptions for cannabis products are to be covered by patients’ health insurance.
The proposed draft bill put forward by the Health Ministry was unanimously adopted in the Bundestag (German parliament) on Thursday.
“According to the draft law of the federal government, patients should be able to obtain dried cannabis and cannabis extracts of controlled quality in pharmacies,” a statement released by the Bundestag on its official website says.
“To ensure the supply, the growth of cannabis for medical purposes in Germany will be allowed,” it continues.
The law provides for a new state-run “cannabis agency” to be set up to manage and control cultivation and distribution of the drug. The self-cultivation of cannabis will still be prohibited, and although private producers will have a chance to apply for a permit to grow marijuana, there will be strict requirements in place.
“This is a further step towards the improvement of palliative care,” Health Minister Hermann Groehe said, commenting on the parliament’s decision, Der Spiegel reported.
Patients currently have to overcome various bureaucratic hurdles and pay heavy prices to gain access to cannabis for therapy – a procedure dubbed as “the government’s denial of assistance” by Frank Tempel from the Left Party, according to Focus.
The price for a month’s supply, almost always paid for by the patient, could be up as high as €1,800 (over US$1,900), Die Zeit reported.
Though the changes will concern only a small group of patients suffering from severe, chronic diseases, the move looks to be a big step when compared to the current 1,020 people across the whole of Germany who have been allowed to use marijuana to ease their pain.
Along with the legalization, Germany is also planning to launch research to study the positive effects of such therapy, the appropriate dosage of the drug, and also its side effects. For this purpose, anonymous data on patients is to be transferred to the Federal Institute for Drugs and Medical Devices (BfArM).
The Bundestag’s decision on the draft law – which is expected to come into force in March – has been welcomed by the German Pain Society. Its president, Michael Schaefer, noted that the group has long been waiting for such an amendment, according to Milleldeutcher Rundfunk.
“Regular drugs may sometimes not be effective with tumor patients, so you can start experimenting with cannabis,” he said.
Cannabis is used in medicine against various symptoms of severe conditions, including nausea, loss of appetite and even memory loss.
Marijuana for terminally ill patients has been legalized in a number of European countries and some American states. However, in 2015 the American Medical Association stated that "there have not been enough large studies of marijuana to definitively show that it is a safe and effective drug."