Germany Announces the Legalisation of Medical Cannabis in 2017

  • This Wednesday, the German Health Ministry announced in a press release that the country’s government intends to legalise the medical use of cannabis in 2017.  It is for this purpose that he has presented draft legislation at the latest cabinet meeting to relax laws on cannabis consumption and permit its medical use next year for seriously ill persons who are without any other therapeutic alternatives. Health minister Hermann Gröhe has also announced that he wants health insurance companies to cover the costs if patients are unable to receive help in any other way. 

This decision has been taken in the wake of several other countries passing laws to regulate the use, both medical and recreational, of marijuana; and following the announcement made by the German government early this year on the possibility of creating a state agency for controlling the use, growing and distribution of medicinal cannabis. Before cannabis growing eventually comes under the control of this government agency, its supply for medical use may be guaranteed by importing from abroad.

The new law should allow those patients who are seriously ill and without any therapeutic alternative to obtain dried cannabis flowers and quality-controlled cannabis extracts at pharmacies. Gröhe has announced to the press that will probably become effective in the spring of 2017 the latest, although the law must still be dealt with at the Bundestag (the lower house of Parliament). Thus, legalization will begin exactly two years after the government’s first announcement of this project, an historic decision that the Health Ministry is now putting into effect for those people affected by various chronic or terminal illnesses.

In the words of the federal drug commissioner, Marlene Mortler, "the use of cannabis as a medicine within narrow limits is useful and should be explored in more detail." She has also stated: "At the same time, cannabis is not a harmless substance; legalization for private pleasure is not the aim and purpose of this. It is intended for medical use only."

The legalisation of medical cannabis was announced after last April, when Germany’s Federal Administrative Court, on an exceptional basis, granted a terminal ill man a permit to grow cannabis for self-treatment purposes, once it was established that it was the only substance that could alleviate his pains. The ruling of this case, which went through the courts for almost 16 years, the Federal Institute for Drugs and Medical Devices was compelled to offer a growing permit to patients suffering from multiple sclerosis.

"Our goal is that seriously ill patients are treated in the best possible way," says Gröhe. "We want that for the seriously ill patients the cost of cannabis as a medicine will be taken by their health insurance, if they cannot be helped otherwise.”

Until now, it was possible for some 5,000 patients in Germany to obtain medicinal cannabis products in Germany in the form of drops or sprays. And nearly 500 patients were authorised to be treated with marijuana flowers thanks to special permits. This need, so far, has been covered with imports mainly from the Netherlands.

These patients, however, often had to endure long waiting periods due to the producers’ delivery times. Experts now forecast that there will be approximately 800,000 patients per year to whom medical cannabis is to be legally prescribed, which means that more delays are to take place, due to the supply bottleneck, until the cultivation comes under State control.


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