Updated on December 28, 2018. Medical content reviewed by Dr. Richard Koffler, MD, Board Certified Physiatrist
Germany recently joined other European nations in legalizing marijuana for medicinal purposes. The Act Amending Narcotics and Other Regulations passed in March 2017 and expanded the possibilities for medical marijuana in Germany.
The act also started the Cannabis Agency, headed by the Federal Institute for Drugs and Medical Devices (BfArM). The initiation of this government led organization should streamline the process of receiving a prescription for medical marijuana to qualified patients.
Now that this new legislation has liberalized medical marijuana parameters, patients may find it easier to get a doctor’s prescription for medical marijuana. Although they still must have a severe medical condition, they no longer must apply for an exemption from BfArM.
In fact, the legislation has created a new branch of BfArM, known as the Cannabis Agency. Their main responsibility is to oversee the production and cultivation of cannabis supplied by businesses commissioned by the cannabis agency. So far, there are no native marijuana cultivators in Germany. The Netherlands and Canada currently provide cannabis medications found in German pharmacies. However, they hope to have a thriving medical marijuana cultivation industry by 2019.
Although this legislation eases up on medicinal cannabis usage, but the recreational use of marijuana will continue to be illegal indefinitely.
Until 2005, both medicinal and recreational cannabis use was completely illegal in Germany. That year, a court ruling paved the way for medical marijuana as a viable option for patients struggling with debilitating conditions. However, patients who wished to receive cannabis from a pharmacy would have to obtain an exemption from BfArM.
But as of December 2016, less than 1000 patients received an exemption. The main reason for this was the strict narcotic laws. Then, when one patient obtained an exemption and began growing his own cannabis, the government began pursuing new legislation. Although BfArM tried to prevent the patient from growing marijuana, the courts said the ambiguity of his exemption made cultivating his own weed permissible.
To stop further home-cultivation, the government created the current legislation, which keeps all cultivation under the watchful eye of the Cannabis Agency.
Under the old legislation, a court ruling allowed patients to cultivate their own medical marijuana. However, when the new act passed in 2017, it put all production and cultivation that occurs in Germany under the umbrella of the Cannabis Agency. Now, users unlawfully growing marijuana plants for home use can be prosecuted.
If patients carry their medicinal cannabis prescription when in possession of marijuana, they’re protected from prosecution. Authorities highly recommend patients only medicate with their cannabis products at home.
When the Act Amending Narcotics and Other Regulations passed in 2017, it opened up many possibilities for patients seeking cannabis treatments. There is no set list of qualifying conditions — however, BfArM encourages doctors in Germany to educate themselves on the possible uses of medical marijuana and the scientific data surrounding the plant.
Germany is one of a few countries that doesn’t require its citizens to get a medical marijuana card. Instead, they must meet with a physician who is licensed to prescribe narcotic medications. After a thorough examination and perusal of the patient’s medical records, the doctor can choose to give them a prescription for cannabis. BfArM recommends doctors only prescribe cannabis if other courses of treatment have not worked.
Once a patient has their cannabis prescription, they can have it filled at any pharmacy that carries medical marijuana. The doctor will recommend a 30-day dosage, which can be up to 100,000 mg.
Since Germany’s amendment to its medical cannabis laws, the following statistics have come to light:
If patients have a medical cannabis prescription, they are protected from prosecution and conviction. However, the recreational use of cannabis, home-cultivation and the sale of marijuana are all still illegal.
If someone is found in possession of a small amount of marijuana, they are not usually prosecuted. If they are, most penalties for possession involve a fine.
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