Medical cannabis legalization continues to sweep the world. Let’s take a look at some major movements in Germany and Greece this week.
In March 2017, Germany became the largest federally legal medical marijuana market in the world and they also have a great medical insurance program where every German citizen is mandated to have health coverage (through a private company), and some of their insurance firms are covering medical marijuana in their plans which makes medical cannabis accessible to the country’s 70 million insured people.
Three large insurance firms – Allgemeine Ortskrankenkasse, Barmer, and Techniker Krankenkasse – told the Rheinische Post that they approved MMJ reimbursement applications for about two-thirds of all applicants in 2017. The medical demand for marijuana in 2017 was up to approximately 13,000 applicants granted reimbursements by the end of the year, a significant increase since the beginning of the program in March 2017, at which time there were only 1,000 applicants.
Germany is not able to produce cannabis domestically yet, and are currently relying on importing the medication, mostly from Canada and the Netherlands. They are planning to start cultivation in 2019. According to the Associated Press, the German Federal Institute for Drugs and Medical Devices (BfArM) is currently working to establish an agency to sift through private business bids to grow MMJ for their patients.
The agency will be working on and regulating the current importing of medical marijuana from Canada and the Netherlands and will oversee the cultivation, storage and subsequent distribution to pharmacies across Germany. The agency is also expected to invite bids from European Union companies to carry out cultivation domestically as soon as 2019, when they are able to start cultivating their own cannabis products.
“Cannabis is not a panacea,” emphasizes the Federal Government Drugs Commissioner, Marlene Mortler (CSU). She nevertheless rates the high number of applications as positive: “The increasing number of permits shows how important it was to launch this law last year.”
Currently, doctors and physicians are able to prescribe medical cannabis for specific illnesses and symptoms, including chronic pain, epilepsy, multiple sclerosis and decreased appetite or nausea resulting from cancer treatments. Medical cannabis is only sold in pharmacies and patients are not legally able to grow or cultivate their own marijuana right now, though that may change in the future. At the moment, this is in place because there is no way to regulate personal cultivation and ensure that the product is medical-grade and able to treat diseases and difficult symptoms.
One of Greece’s deputy ministers said last week that the country’s parliament is expected to approve the medical use of cannabis in the coming weeks, and added that the change would likely attract investors and major cannabis companies to the small country. There are Greek, Israeli and Canadian companies already showing an interest in possibly investing in the cannabis market in Greece and estimates put the number of investing dollars at approximately 1.5-2 billion euros (USD $1.8-2.4b).
“In a few weeks’ time, an amendment will be brought to parliament to define the legislative framework for the cultivation and manufacturing of pharmaceutical products based on medical cannabis, which will open the way for Greek and foreign investments,” deputy agricultural development minister Yannis Tsironis told AFP.
In 2017, the Greek government authorized the import of several pharmaceutical products based on medical marijuana, as well as hemp cultivation for industrial purposes for the first time and this is showing great promise.
On Friday, January 12, 2018, the very first Greek cannabis expo, Athens Cannabis Expo 2018, debuted at the Coastal Zone Olympic Complex in Faliro, which was the site of the 2004 Athens Summer Olympics. The expo is to raise awareness about the medicinal and industrial uses of the marijuana plant. More than 100 businesses from both Greece and around the world exhibited, all who specialize in the use of cannabis in both the medical industry and others.
Many Greek lawmakers were in attendance, including Alternate Agriculture Development Minister Yiannis Tsironis and Economy and Development Secretary General Efstratios Zafiris.