The German cabinet has approved a measure which will allow for the use of marijuana in certain medical cases of pain relief, with the innovative step that the law will state that the drug is to be covered by public health insurance and grown by the government.
The law is largely aimed at seriously ill individuals who experience severe pain, and a proposal by German Health Minister, Hermann Gröhe, has already been approved.
“Our goal is that seriously ill people will be taken care of in the best possible way. For the seriously ill when they can not otherwise be helped, we want the cost of cannabis to be treated as a medicine and covered by their health insurance . We also want to undertake accompanying research in order to accurately determine the medical benefit [of cannabis].” -Hermann Gröhe
The law allows for access to medical marijuana for patients for whom other treatments for serious diseases are ineffective. The status of these patients will need to be confirmed by their doctor, stating that other treatments were ineffective.
Previously, patients seeking to use medical marijuana needed special permission to obtain it and had to pay for it themselves. According to the government, 647 people in Germany had obtained the necessary permission as of April, 2016.
In a further step, in order to provide pharmacies and patients with a supply of cannabis, the law would also allow cultivation of cannabis plants by the Federal Institute for Drugs and Medical Devices. Additional research on the effects of medical marijuana is to be carried out with the patients who use it.
The legalisation of cannabis for recreational use is not currently being discussed and will remain illegal.
The vote concerning the law in Germany’s Bundestag is expected to be a formality and is likely to come into effect in the spring of 2017.
A press release from the health ministry said Germany would cover its medical marijuana needs until then with imported cannabis.
Photo credit: “iStock.com/gil-design”. Material used in the preparation of this article has been drawn from German Federal Ministry for Health (Bundesministerium für Gesundheit).