Europe: First German Patient Approved to Use Medical Marijuana

The German Federal Institute for Drugs and Medical Devices has for the first time approved the use of medical marijuana for a patient. The institute acted in the case of a 51-year-old woman who suffers from multiple sclerosis, who will be able to legally buy marijuana at a pharmacy to ease her symptoms.

Beginning next month, the woman will be allowed to buy a "standardized extract" of the marijuana plant from the pharmacy for a year. The woman's health will be monitored by a doctor. In addition, both the woman and the pharmacy must store the marijuana extract in a safe to prevent theft.

Marijuana is illegal in Germany, but a 2005 German Federal Administrative Court ruling has muddied the waters when it comes to medical marijuana. In that ruling, the court held that it was "in the public interest" to improve the health of patients, so now the federal institute must individually evaluate each case where a patient seeks access to medical marijuana.

Until now, German doctors have only been able to prescribe Marinol, but that compound is both expensive and lacks some of the cannabinoids that patients say makes natural marijuana preferable to the synthetic drug. Marinol is also not approved as a medicine in Germany, meaning it is not covered by health insurance. Natural marijuana should be less expensive.

Still, despite this week's decision to approve medical marijuana for one patient, other medical marijuana patients still face possible prosecution. Last week, the Suddeutsche Zeitung reported on the case of a hepatitis-C patient sentenced to a year in jail for marijuana possession.

Permission to Reprint: This article is licensed under a modified Creative Commons Attribution license.
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