Early this year, Germany – known to have one of Europe’s strictest narcotic drug laws – passed one of the most progressive medical marijuana legislations in the world. Aside from legalizing the medical use of marijuana, authorizing doctors to prescribe it, and putting medical marijuana in more pharmacies, the new law also requires public health insurance companies to cover costs of cannabis products, just the way they do other pharmaceutical prescriptions. This makes Germany the first country with lawfully mandated insurance coverage for medical marijuana used in the treatment of “severe conditions” – at federal legislative level, at least.
Moreover, the new policy will replace the country’s old medical marijuana law, wherein licenses are granted to individuals in order to legally grow their own plants. Under the new legislation, Germany will start growing marijuana domestically and according to its own regulated terms.
Other specifics of the new marijuana legislation
According to the new law, doctors can prescribe medical marijuana to patients who are seriously ill, like those suffering from chronic pain, multiple sclerosis, epilepsy, nausea from chemotherapy, or serious appetite loss. While the law did not provide a specific definition for “seriously ill,” it does give doctors the authority to prescribe medical marijuana when they think that it could result to a positive effect for the patient.
Patients are also required to submit data anonymously with regard to their therapy for the purpose of further research. Meanwhile, pharmacies can fill prescriptions for medical marijuana in extract, cannabis oil, or dried bud form.
Standardizing Germany’s medical marijuana supply chain
Pursuant to the new law, the BfArM or the Federal Institute for Drugs and Medical Devices established an internal cannabis agency that is in charge of organizing and regulating the cultivation of medical marijuana. The body has released a public tender and numerous companies have submitted applications for a cultivation license.
The process of granting cultivation licenses, however, is taking longer than expected, considering that this is an entirely new field for BfArM, and the agency is requiring very specific qualifications. For one, an applicant-company has to have some sort of experience in the past with regard to cannabis products, and it has to have its own indoor cultivation facility, as well as certain security measures in place.
Although Germany does not have companies with previous experience in cultivating marijuana, there are those with relevant experience handling cannabis products imported from other countries like Canada. These companies have experience either in setting up security measures or in packaging.
BfArM has also released a public procurement tender wherein it invited companies to put forward qualifying bids on specific marijuana plants to sell these to BfArM. BfArM, in turn, will sell these marijuana plants to the pharmacies.
What about recreational marijuana?
Currently, there isn’t any federal proposal to entirely legalize marijuana that appears to have enough approval across all political parties to pass.
However, the German narcotics law already states that authorities do not really need to prosecute those caught in possession of any narcotic drug in “minor amounts” that are meant for personal consumption, except if this is in case “of public interest,” like when the offender is consuming drugs in public, in a public school, or in a state prison, or when in front of minors.
As of now, the “minor amount” of marijuana that an individual may possess for personal use without being prosecuted, generally speaking, varies across the country’s 16 states. For instance, in the capital city of Berlin, laws are much more liberal and, in most cases, the possession of up to 15 grams of marijuana for personal use is not prosecuted. Many other states have a 3- to 5-gram limit.