Last week, Germany joined a growing list of countries and territories that have legalized cannabis for medical purposes. The German medical cannabis program is not expected to be very large and will be strictly limited to “patients suffering from serious illness, such as multiple sclerosis, chronic pain, serious appetite loss or nausea from chemotherapy who receive a prescription from their doctor.” Though this may seem like a relatively small victory, it may be the impetus for massive progress medical cannabis.
The legislation that created Germany’s medical cannabis program may have passed with little fanfare or controversy but it could potentially have far reaching international implications. As Europe’s largest economy, Germany is quite influential in the EU and around the world. With its support on the national level (as opposed to the US where states have taken the lead), the German example could encourage other smaller nations to follow suit. This would be especially true should the program help the country save on healthcare costs as it has in the US states that have legalized cannabis for medical purposes
The fact that Germany’s program will be carried out by doctors and pharmacists could be a major boon for research and cause greater understanding in the medical community. One of the hurdles facing medical cannabis is the fact that few doctors understand how it works and how it should be applied in a clinical setting. This program will likely encourage doctors to be better informed so they can better server their patients. As understanding grows, that information will be shared throughout the world’s medical community. Also, Germany has long been a world leader in pharmaceutical research so with some of the legal barriers removed companies in the country may invest and see major advances.
Another important bit of progress is that the German government has officially recognized cannabis as a medicine. As such insurance providers will be required to cover its cost. One of the major barriers facing patients seeking access to medical cannabis is the cost. While cannabis medicines are often far cheaper than their pharmaceutical counterparts, they are rarely covered by insurance providers. Therefore many patients, particularly elderly patients on fixed incomes, often stick with pharmaceuticals that are more dangerous and less effective due to their out of pocket costs. This change could set an important example for the world.
It is still too early to fully grasp the developments that will come from this important change to German law but there are some very hopeful signs. The world needs more countries to provide access to medical cannabis, doctors must be better informed, research must be performed, and patients need cost effective means of obtaining this life changing medicine. Germany’s medical cannabis program provides hope that the world is moving toward achieving these goals.