The Independent reports:
Under new regulations that came into force on Wednesday cannabis from imported plants can be processed at Polish pharmacies - as long as it has been logged with the country's Office for Registration of Medical Products.
Pharmacists are already prepared to make the drugs, according to the Polish Pharmaceutical Chamber (PPC).
A spokesman said: "Given the fact that there are nearly 15,000 pharmacies in Poland, an overwhelming majority is authorised to make prescription drugs – that’s around 90 percent.
"It is estimated that up to 300,000 patients could qualify for medical marijuana treatment."
A new marijuana policy went into effect this Monday in Switzerland. The new law, passed by parliament last year, allows adults caught with up to 10 grams of marijuana to pay a $110 fine to avoid legal proceedings. Growing, consuming, and selling marijuana are all still against Swiss law, but the new policy shows signs that Switzerland may go the way of other European countries that are more tolerant of marijuana use. An estimated 500,000 of Switzerland’s eight million residents use marijuana occasionally. This new policy could save many occasional users from harsh legal penalties.
To learn more about marijuana policy abroad, visit our international policy page.
Many people are at least vaguely aware that government-sanctioned medical marijuana programs exist in Canada and the Netherlands. But few Americans are aware that another of America's strongest allies, Israel, also has a national medical marijuana program. And, according to a translation posted by MAPS of a recent article in the Israeli newspaper Maariv, that program is growing.
Three hundred patients are now enrolled, representing a 1,400% increase in new permissions to use medical marijuana in the last two years, according to the paper. Strikingly, the program includes not only the obvious indications like neuropathic pain or nausea and vomiting related to treatments for cancer or HIV/AIDS, but conditions like post-traumatic stress disorder that are often not included in U.S. medical marijuana laws, though there is reason to believe that marijuana may be helpful for at least some PTSD patients.
Meanwhile, seven German patients recently became the first in their country to receive whole marijuana for medical use with government approval. As the rest of the world starts to enter the 21st century on this issue, will the U.S. continue to be stuck in 1937?
Germany is about to become the fifth country to allow at least some patients to use natural marijuana as medicine. According to a report from the International Association for Cannabis as Medicine, the German government recently notified four patients that they would be allowed to receive medical marijuana produced under the Dutch government's medical marijuana program. The German program remains limited to special cases.
Other German patients have been allowed to use a liquid extract made from Dutch cannabis, but for some patients the extract proved unsatisfactory. The patients are expected to receive their supply of whole marijuana around mid-January.
Other than the Netherlands, nations that have some sort of medical marijuana program sanctioned by their national governments -- with varying levels of restrictions and limitations -- include Canada and Israel. Oh, and the U.S., which still provides medical marijuana to a handful of surviving patients in a program that was closed to new enrollment in 1992.
The Dutch have evolved a mostly workable but somewhat contradictory system for handling marijuana: While technically illegal, possession and sale of small amounts through regulated "coffee shops" have been tolerated since the mid-'70s. This has effectively separated the retail market for marijuana from more dangerous drugs like cocaine and heroin, but because marijuana cultivation remains banned, coffee shops have no legitimate source for their product.
A group of 30 Dutch mayors has now proposed the logical solution: a system of government-licensed marijuana cultivation. While the present conservative government of the Netherlands has moved to reduce the number of coffee shops, the mayors argue that such a move is likely to be counterproductive.
In preparation for a parliamentary hearing scheduled for October 15, a coalition of German health organizations, including the German AIDS Support Society, the German Society for Pain Therapy, and the German Epilepsy Association, have issued a statement calling on the government to facilitate access to medical cannabis for patients without threat of prosecution. The Berlin Declaration, as it's called, is in German, but the International Association for Cannabis as Medicine has provided the following translation:
"In 1998 a coalition of medical societies, self-help groups and notabilities from politics, science and culture postulated in the 'Frankfurt Resolution' that the medical use of cannabis should be permitted.
"Ten years on, research into the medical potential of cannabis and select cannabinoids has made great progress and the medical benefits of cannabis for the treatment of several illnesses are no longer in doubt. Patients may now receive from their doctor a prescription for the cannabis ingredient dronabinol, but most health insurance programs do not reimburse the cost of treatment. Those patients who cannot afford a prescription and instead self-medicate with cannabis are still subject to prosecution. Several of them have been sentenced to prison terms, some were acquitted in court. Unfortunately, the option to obtain a waiver for the medical use of cannabis from the Federal Institute for Pharmaceuticals and Medical Products (BfArM) has not significantly improved this unacceptable situation.
"The signatories recognize that for many people who are seriously ill cannabis may be a very helpful medicine but that they cannot benefit from its use for socio-economic reasons (high cost of dronabinol) or because of bureaucratic hurdles (obtaining an exemption from the BfArM). Thus, the signatories encourage the federal government and parliament to take action as follows:
"1. To ensure that the cost of treatment with dronabinol is covered by health insurance if a doctor prescribes it for an indication where the benefits of dronabinol have been scientifically proven.
"2. To protect those patients who use cannabis therapeutically based on a doctor's recommendation from prosecution.
"3. To promote research on the therapeutic potential of cannabis products."
- ADHS Deutschland (ADHD Germany)
- Akzept (Association for Accepting Drug Policy)
- Arbeitsgemeinschaft Cannabis als Medizin (Association for Cannabis as Medicine)
- Deutsche AIDS-Hilfe (German Aids Support Society)
- Deutsche Epilepsievereinigung (German Epilepsy Association)
- Deutsche Gesellschaft für Suchtmedizin (German Society for Addiction Medicine)
- Deutschen Gesellschaft für Schmerztherapie (German Society for Pain Therapy)
- Deutscher Patienten Schutzbund (German Society for the Protection of Patients)
- Initiative Selbsthilfe Multiple Sklerose Kranker (Self-help Initiative for MS Patients)
- Interessenverband Tic & Tourette Syndrom (Association Tic and Tourette Syndrome)
- Polio Allianz (Alliance of Poliomyelitis Patients)
- Republikanischer Anwältinnen- und Anwälteverein (Society of Republican Attorneys)
- Selbsthilfenetzwerk Cannabis Medizin (Self-help Network Medical Cannabis)
- Tourette-Gesellschaft Deutschland (Tourette Society Germany)
Global Cannabis Commission: "No Justification For Incarcerating an Individual For Cannabis Possession"
"If something is not legal, you can't regulate it very effectively."
-- Prof. Robin Room, School of Population Health, University of Melbourne
On October 2, the Global Cannabis Commission, a group of top scientists commissioned by the Beckley Foundation, issued its groundbreaking report, "Cannabis Policy: Moving Beyond Stalemate." Your faithful correspondent was able to attend the daylong seminar in which the report was discussed, held in the distinctly imposing Moses Room of the House of Lords in the Palace of Westminster.
The report was written by five leading marijuana and drug policy researchers: Benedikt Fischer of Simon Fraser University in Vancouver, Peter Reuter of the University of Maryland, and three Australians: Wayne Hall of the University of Queensland, Simon Lenton of the National Drug Research Institute at the Curtin University of Technology, and Robin Room of the University of Melbourne. A number of other important researchers joined the discussion (and contributed advice and research to the report).
RISKS ASSOCIATED WITH MARIJUANA USE:
Marijuana is not harmless. Intoxication "increases the risk of motor vehicle crashes 2-3 times" -- not trivial, but "far more modest than that of alcohol." There is clearly an increased risk of bronchitis among heavy marijuana smokers, but no evidence of increased rates of emphysema, while the evidence regarding lung cancer is mixed, the report states.
Marijuana almost certainly exacerbates symptoms of schizophrenia in vulnerable individuals, but epidemiologic evidence argues against it causing psychosis in healthy people. As for worries about increased potency, more research is needed. If users adjust their intake in relation to potency, dangers are minimal. Perhaps most important, "All of these trends [toward increased potency] have been encouraged by prohibition, which favors the production of more concentrated forms."
Overall, the report finds the risks of marijuana use are "modest" compared with those of legal drugs like alcohol and tobacco.
POLICY AND REFORM:
While causing obvious harm to those arrested and convicted, criminalization of marijuana possession has not succeeded in preventing marijuana from being widely available. Contrary to wild claims being made in Massachusetts right now, decriminalization measures have not increased use rates. "If a nation chooses to use the criminal law for controlling cannabis use, there is no justification for incarcerating an individual for a cannabis possession or use offense, nor for creating a criminal conviction," the report concludes.
While not firmly advocating one policy alternative, the report lays out many advantages to a system of legal regulation like that used for alcohol. As report co-author Prof. Robin Room noted succinctly, "If something is not legal, you can't regulate it very effectively."
I'm off to London to represent MPP at the launch of the Beckley Foundation's Global Cannabis Commission Report October 2 and 3.
This document, put together by some of the world's top researchers and drug policy analysts, promises to be of great value in efforts to base marijuana policy on facts and data rather than spin or political expediency. So you won't see me posting for a few days (outside of meetings, I will be fully occupied recovering from jet lag), but I will post a full report early next week.
In the marijuana reform movement, one of the comments I often overhear in conversations, see posted in online message forums, or read in blog comments relates to the Netherlands and their treatment of marijuana. "Treat marijuana like the Netherlands does" seems to be the rallying cry for lots of misinformed people.
Jeffrey Stinson recently did a short piece on how marijuana is treated in the Netherlands for USA Today. Though brief, the story zeroes in on one important fact: Marijuana in the Netherlands is illegal; the government simply chooses to ignore its sale and use.
I respect that the Netherlands treats marijuana more in accordance with the potential harms than America does, but I still strongly believe that as Americans we should work toward creating sensible policies to tax and regulate marijuana rather than making a conscious effort to ignore it. Let's look for solutions, not stopgaps.
What do you think?