Medical Marijuana

Watching resistance to cannabis go up in smoke

Rethinking Pot Washington Seed to Store Photo Essay
Two U.S. states have completely legalized marijuana.
  • Why it matters

    Why it matters

    Cannabis can be addictive and induce psychosis. But in certain cases, the medical benefits far outweigh the side effects.

  • Facts

    Facts

    • Currently fewer than 300 people have access to medical marijuana in Germany.
    • Three chronically ill people sued to have the right to grow their own pot.
    • German pharmacies have to import medical marijuana from the Netherlands.
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    Audio

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Germany has taken yet another step toward embracing the use of marijuana – the focus of much debate in the country these days – by allowing three seriously ill people previously allowed to purchase cannabis for medical purposes to grow their own. And the Berlin city government is even considering giving the green light for the country’s first pot shop for general consumption.

Last week, an administrative court in Cologne ruled that three Germans suffering from multiple sclerosis, chronic pain and attention-deficit disorder could grow their own cannabis. The court said the three plaintiffs could grow marijuana provided they allowed no other people access to it and had no other affordable alternative to raising their own crops. The amount they were purchasing was costing them several hundred euros a month, which was not covered by German health insurance.

The Cologne court decision follows several rulings that are slowly liberalizing the use of medical marijuana in Germany. In 2000, the country’s Federal Administrative Court ruled that seriously ill people in the country should be able to apply for special permission to use the drug.

In 2007, the first multiple sclerosis patient received cannabis therapy. Meanwhile, some 300 people in the country have permission to purchase medical marijuana at designated pharmacies to ease their afflictions. Another 3,500 patients are able to receive a chemically synthesized cannabinoid on prescription. An increasing number of them want the right to grow their own marijuana.

The fear is that personal pot plantations could flourish, creating an uncontrollable cannabis market tapped by illicit dealers.

For the general public, cannabis remains an illegal substance to buy, even if possessing small amounts of it was decriminalized long ago in Germany.

Cannabis can be addictive and induce psychosis. But in certain cases, the benefits far outweigh the side effects. Studies have shown it can spark the appetite of AIDS and cancer patients and calm the spasms of multiple sclerosis. But these medical considerations are all too often overshadowed by an emotional debate about drug addiction, child protection and criminality.

German drug enforcement authorities will now have to review the three plaintiffs’ cases and are likely to appeal the court decision, given that the German health ministry is against patients growing their own medical marijuana. The fear is that personal pot plantations could flourish, creating an uncontrollable cannabis market tapped by illicit dealers.

Advocates of legalized marijuana, however, point to Colorado, where the state government first allowed medical marijuana to be sold before completely legalizing its harvesting, sale and consumption earlier this year. Its legalization has also resulted in a controlled retail market.

Franjo Grotenhermen, a doctor and long-time medical marijuana advocate, estimates that 1 percent of the world’s population could benefit from cannabis, based on experiences from Israel, Canada and the United States. In Germany, that would be some 800,000 people. Numerous firms in Germany would probably jump at the opportunity to help them.

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