Last spring Germany took a big step forward on the path to medical marijuana reform – and they stood by their word that it would happen within the next year when Parliament voted this week and came to the unanimous decision to legalize medical marijuana for patients with qualifying chronic and debilitating conditions. Medical marijuana was actually made available to Germans in 2011 – but the restrictions surrounding access to it were too strict and currently there are only about 1,000 people who have gained legal access since then.
The previous law did not allow for local cultivation of the plant, which led to “supply constraints” – so even with the small number of people registered as a part of the program, not all of them have been able to get the medicine that they need. This new law will not only open up patient access to those with MS, chronic pain, loss of appetite and other side effects of chemotherapy (among other conditions), but it will also create a strict cultivation and distribution system that will make access for these new patients a reality.
While this new law will not take effect until March, once it has, health insurers will actually be required to reimburse patients for the cost of cannabis therapy when it is the only option left for treatment. This will ensure that every patient is able to get access, without having to worry about going broke in the process by paying out of pocket for their medicine when any other medicine would have been covered.
“Cannabis as a medicine is certainly not a miracle drug,” Federal Drug Commissioner Mortler said. “But everyone should have the right to have it paid for when it helps.”
This new law will not help everyone who would likely benefit from medical marijuana – but it does dramatically expand access to the herb through physicians and pharmacies throughout the country, which is a big step forward compared to the law passed in 2011 that has failed to help more than a thousand people. They are also one of the first European countries to take such a step – allowing a wider variety of people to access full strength cannabis; nearby England has just legalized CBD and Ireland is considering moving forward with a comprehensive medical marijuana program as well.
As medical marijuana spreads throughout the United States – now in 28 states and D.C. – it seems to be catching on around the world as well. With many European countries looking at legalizing medical marijuana on a national level, we can hope that it’s only a matter of time before medical cannabis is recognized as a therapeutic and beneficial medicine around the globe. Until then, we will just have to sit back and watch as governments one after another abolish outdated policies and move towards the future, where cannabis is once again seen as one of the most versatile medicines and used as it was for centuries – before prohibition took hold.