Germany may soon join the ranks of many other countries and states within the United States by adopting a policy that would allow for the wide use of medical cannabis to alleviate pain. The German Drug Commissioner Marlene Mortler announced that Germany will be aiming to set up a Cannabis Agency to regulate cannabis use in a medical setting.
This would not allow for patients to grow the plant on their own, but would grant access to those in need. Likely, companies will be certified to grow cannabis and then distribute to patients, which is currently what is happening in Canada.
Germany has a very unique view on the legal use of drugs. While cannabis is considered illegal, using narcotics is technically not illegal. This is because drug consumption is considered self-harm and is not subject to prosecution, meaning that a person who tests positive for an illegal substance in their system cannot be prosecuted for using drugs, but since cannabis is still illegal, possession can lead to a conviction.
Although, even though cannabis is illegal to possess under the Betäubungsmittelgesetz (BtMG; German Narcotic Drugs Act in English), depending on the federal state (or region), small amounts of cannabis possession are tolerated and may not be prosecuted. For example, Berlin is very liberal and may allow up to 15 grams, while most other states will not allow more than 6 grams to go unprosecuted.
On top of that, there are currently almost 400 legal cannabis users in Germany who have been specifically authorized by the government for medical pain treatment. Of those authorized, they are almost all exclusively for patients suffering from terminal cancer.
These patients must pay out of pocket to obtain their medicine and have to import from the Netherlands. This costs between 15 and 20 Euro per gram, which is about $20 to $25 US dollars. To put that in perspective, a person can purchase recreational cannabis at as little as $5 a gram in Portland, Oregon.
Not only is the expense exorbitant for Germans, but the cannabis comes from a single company, Bedrocan, which supplies only four strains to German patients. These options are miniscule compared to the choices medical patients have in the United States and does not give much option for THC, CBD, and combinations of both for specific treatment.
Of the legal cannabis users in Germany, three patients have been able to take their cases against the Federal Institute for Drugs and Medical Devices (BfArM) for not allowing them to grow their own plants since the imports are incredibly expensive and not covered by health insurance.
Günther Weiglein is one of the three cannabis patients who the German court allowed the ability to potentially grow his own medicine. Unfortunately for Mr. Weiglein, the stipulations for him to grow out of his home are extremely difficult to fulfill and the BfArM may still appeal the cases preventing Mr. Weiglein and the other two patients from growing. These tiny steps forward show there is a strong case for the German government to adapt to the changing worldview and legal stance toward the plant, making it more accessible for patients and providing a wider variety of choices for users. A Cannabis Agency would be able to work out a much more efficient system and make cannabis more accessible to patients. Hopefully, it will expand the criteria for patients to qualify for cannabis as well.