Marijuana laws for both medical and recreational use are loosening across the globe. Among the countries at the forefront of laxer marijuana laws, Germany announced it would legalize cannabis for medicinal purposes in 2017.
What makes Germany’s new marijuana law unique is that it would require health insurance to cover the costs of medical marijuana in the absence of therapeutic alternatives. As a result, almost anyone in the country would be able to afford medical marijuana treatment, which is already significantly cheaper in comparison to other treatment options.
“Our goal is that seriously ill people are looked after to the best of our ability,” Federal Health Minister Hermann Gröhe said. “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,” he added.
Previously, patients seeking medical marijuana had to be granted special permission and were required to pay out of pocket. The German government reports approximately 647 people were granted permission for medical marijuana since April.
THC is the active ingredient in marijuana. It binds to cannabinoid receptors in the brain, which can help numb pain and boost appetite. Because of this, marijuana has been approved for medicinal purposes in several countries like Australia. In the United States, approximately 24 states and DC have legalized marijuana for therapeutic use; however, the drug remains illegal at a federal level, reports IFLScience.com.
In addition to making medical cannabis legal, the law would allow the Federal Institute for Drugs and Medical Devices to cultivate the plant. More research on the impact medical marijuana has on patients will be carried out in wake of the law passing as well.
Nevertheless, requiring health insurance to cover medical marijuana is not without its downsides. Health insurance might make the restrictions attached to medical marijuana tighter than in other countries like the United States and Canada. The country is trying to make sure the program is not abused and reserved strictly for sick patients who need it.
“The use of cannabis as a medicine within narrow limits is useful and should be explored in more detail,” said Marlene Mortler, the country’s federal drug commissioner. “At the same time, cannabis is not a harmless substance, a legalization for private pleasure is not the aim and purpose of this. It is intended for medical use only,” she added.
If everything goes well with Parliament, the law will be passed and put into practice at the beginning of 2017. Patients will likely start asking their doctors about this ahead of time since it appears the bill will almost certainly pass. A plan is in place to make sure medical marijuana is available for patients who need it before processing facilities for the drug are approved for cultivation.
“Until the government-controlled cultivation in Germany is established, which presupposes cannabis agency, the medical cannabis supply will be covered by import,” explained Gröhe.
On the whole, the bill appears to be a good step forward, despite the fact that restrictions centered around medical marijuana might be tightened. Nevertheless, the program is sure to provide relief to thousands of patients who desperately need it and is a reflection of a global shift in attitude towards this once stigmatized plant.