The German Bundestag, the lower house of parliament, on 19 January passed a law that legalizes the use of cannabis for medicinal purposes. The law was adopted unanimously by the members of the Bundestag without abstention. Those suffering from serious illnesses such as multiple sclerosis and chronic pain could be prescribed cannabis flowers, cannabis extracts as well as cannabis-based medicines such as the cannabis extract Sativex, dronabinol and nabilone by every German doctor. The law does not limit the possibility to prescribe cannabis and cannabis-based medicines to certain illnesses.
The law says patients will only have the right to be treated with cannabis in justified exceptional cases, but patients will not be allowed to grow their own cannabis. “Those who are severely ill need to get the best possible treatment and that includes health insurance funds paying for cannabis as a medicine for those who are chronically ill if they can’t be effectively treated any other way,” said Health Minister Hermann Groehe. A Health Ministry spokeswoman said cannabis would only be used as a last resort when nothing else seemed to work. She said a scientific study would simultaneously be carried out to assess the effects of cannabis use in such cases. Health insurances will have to cover the costs of the treatment. She said the law was likely to take effect in March after a procedural reading by the upper house of parliament (German Bundesrat). State-supervised cannabis plantations will be set up in Germany in future and until then cannabis will be imported, currently from the Netherlands and Canada.
“This is a tremendous achievement of all patients, doctors and lawyers, who since many years worked for the improvement of the medical care of the population with cannabis within the German Association for Cannabis as Medicine (ACM), increasingly supported by other people, organizations and politicians,” said Dr Franjo Grotenhermen, Chairman of the ACM. “But”, he added, “the battle is not yet finished. Today is the day to thank the many, who contributed to this development and continue to work for our goals.” The main steps, which finally resulted in the current law, were brought forward by a complaint of 8 patients before the Federal Constitutional Court in 1999. In this context the Federal Administrative Court emphasised the high value of the right to life and physical integrity based on the constitution (Grundgesetz) in the year 2005: “The right of physical integrity cannot only be violated in that bodies of the state themselves produce an assault or inflict pain through their actions. The extent of protection of this fundamental right is also affected if the government takes measures to prevent a medical condition to be cured or at least be mitigated and thereby physical suffering is continued and maintained needlessly.” This court decision forced the Federal Government to issue approvals for the use of cannabis flowers to severely ill patients under certain conditions.
Reuters of 19 January 2017
Source: IACM Bulletin