Europe: Dutch Medical Marijuana Program Ailing in Face of Widespread Availability for All 6/10/05

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If marijuana is easily and legally available for all comers, you don't really need a medical marijuana program, the Dutch government is finding out. Although the Netherlands has been in the vanguard in approving medical marijuana -- it is the first and only country on earth where prescription pot is available on pharmacy shelves -- the Dutch Health Ministry announced Monday that it will reevaluate the program later this year and may shut it down.

Dutch medical marijuana
While part of the reason for the reevaluation and the rumblings about ending the program is that the current health minister, Christian Democrat Hans Hoogervorst, opposes the whole notion of medical marijuana, most of the concern stems from the lack of interest in the program. Dutch prescription marijuana costs twice as much as similar product available at coffee shops around the country, and people who wish to obtain pot for medical reasons are simply buying it at coffee shops, Health Ministry spokesman Bas Kuik told reporters.

After intensive studies, the Dutch government set up the Bureau of Medicinal Cannabis to supply standardized, quality-controlled marijuana grown under government contract by private entities for the treatment of chronic pain from Multiple Sclerosis, HIV/AIDS, cancer, and other diseases. Pharmacy sales of prescription marijuana began in September 2003, but fell flat, said Kuik. Sales were only one-third of those anticipated and the program is losing money, he said.

Kuik also listed other contributing factors for the program's problems. Doctors who had lobbied for the program didn't bother to actually prescribe marijuana once they could do so, Kuik said. Also, not all insurance companies reimburse patients for prescribed marijuana.

But it seems obvious the primary reason for the program's lack of success is the easy availability of marijuana in Holland. Why bother going to the doctor or the drug store when you can get your medicine over the counter at the coffee shop, and save money doing so?

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Issue #390 -- 6/10/05

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Editorial: Learn to See Hope | Feature: Raich Case Ruling -- Feds Can Enforce Marijuana Laws Against Patients, but State Laws Remain in Effect | DRCNet Interview: Supreme Court Plaintiff Angel McLary Raich | Feature: In the Wake of Raich -- Officials in Three Medical Marijuana States Overreact | Feature: Raich Ramifications -- The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly | Medical Marijuana: One Day After Raich, Rhode Island Senate Passes Medical Marijuana Bill | Weekly: This Week's Corrupt Cops Stories | Marijuana: Retailers Say Legalize It in Online Poll | Europe: Dutch Medical Marijuana Program Ailing in Face of Widespread Availability for All | Canada: Vancouver Tells Ottawa to Legalize It | Asia: Indonesian Protestors Call for Corby's Execution While Australians Call for Bali Boycott | Asia: In Major Shift, China to Promote Needle Exchange | Media Scan: Pain Man, Connecticut Cocaine Sentencing, Uncontrolled Substances | Weekly: This Week in History | Weekly: The Reformer's Calendar

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