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Germany: Lawmakers ready to approve use of medical marijuana

Medical cannabis will be available in Germany soon, with the center-right coalition preparing to make groundbreaking changes to drug laws, a government health spokeswoman said this week.

A gem of German technology

A gem of German technology

Cannabis was illegal throughout Germany until the federal constitutional court decided on 28 April 1994 that people need no longer be prosecuted for possession of soft drugs for personal use. Since then, most German regional governments have tolerated the sale and use of soft drugs.

In some cities, cannabis supply is now tolerated in a similar way to the Netherlands. In other places the courts still treat possession as an offense. For example, in one state, Schleswig-Holstein, no charges are usually brought for possession of less than 30 g, but in Thuringia people are prosecuted for possessing even tiny amounts.

In March 1999, Germany’s drug tsar, Christa Nickels, said she considered it sensible to use cannabis products such as marijuana and hashish for therapeutic purposes in medicine.

With the new law coming, doctors could write prescriptions for cannabis, and pharmacies would be authorised to sell the plant once the law had been adjusted, a member of the junior coalition party, the pro-business Free Democrats (FDP), said Monday.

Marijuana would also be permitted for use as a pain reliever for the terminally ill in hospices and other care facilities, making it a legal part of their emergency pain-relief stocks.

The new law will end a long-running struggle between German officials, doctors and health insurers over use of the proven herbal therapy for treating the pain stemming from diseases such as cancer and multiple sclerosis.

According to the International Association for Cannabinoid Medicines (ACM), only 40 patients in the country are currently allowed a medical marijuana prescription – even though law enforcement generally tolerates small amounts for personal use.

Almost two years ago, the conservative Christian Democrats, the FDP and the center-left Social Democrats all voted against loosening medical cannabis laws. Opponents had warned of the drug’s alleged potential for addiction and doubted its medical benefits.

Sources: Student BMJ

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