Since medical cannabis was legalized in Germany in 2017, there has been a growing interest both from patients who can receive treatment with cannabinoids and from companies that grow and sell medical marijuana. According to German policy, patients who qualify for medical cannabis use and for whom conventional treatment has failed can now count on cannabis-based drugs, although cannabinoid products are still inaccessible to people who are interested in their use for recreational purposes.
The article was prepared in consultation with Drapalin – a German company that is experts in medical cannabis.
Marijuana legalization history in Germany
The abisannabis laws in Germany have changed significantly over the past 30 years, and the penalties have become stricter. After leading the neighboring EU member states, Germany was one of the first countries in Europe to legalize marijuana for medical purposes and become the largest medical cannabis market in Europe.
The Christian Democratic Union under Chancellor Angela Merkel initially always spoke out against the legalization of cannabis in Germany and even insisted on tightening the current drug laws. Other parties, such as the Greens, have started decriminalizing recreational marijuana and proposed their legislation in 2017. With the exception of the CDU and the right-wing party Alternative for Germany (AfD), all parties in the Bundestag supported this initiative. In March 2017, the federal government introduced new legislation that allows the use and possession of cannabis for medical purposes.
Now the Federal Agency for Drugs and Medical Devices is responsible for issuing licenses to trading companies to sell and grow marijuana. If all products were previously imported into Germany, local companies received the first permits for growing cannabis in April 2019 due to the high demand and low supply. Demecan, Aphria, and Aurora were among the earliest moving companies.
What German law says
Cannabis in Germany is legal for certain diseases, but illegal for recreational use, although private possession of marijuana in the “small amount” (6 g for most countries and 15 g for the capital) is not always classified as a criminal offense.
Using marijuana without a prescription is illegal, but will be interpreted as deliberately self-inflicted harm and therefore not prosecuted. Even a positive drug test doesn’t mean the person bought the weed illegally.
At the same time, the Federal Drug Act provides for a prison sentence of up to 5 years for illegal possession and sale of cannabis. The perpetrator can be sentenced to imprisonment of up to 15 years under difficult circumstances (e.g. selling marijuana to minors).
How do I get medical cannabis in Germany?
Today, respected scientists from the United States, Israel, the Netherlands and many other countries explain the effectiveness of marijuana use in treating many diseases, and therefore more and more patients are becoming interested in cannabinoid products. The following conditions may be the reason for receiving medical marijuana for therapeutic use:
- chronic pain;
- Sleep disorders;
- Anxiety disorders;
- Parkinson’s Disease;
- Tourett’s syndrome.
So it needs to be clarified what to do in order to get medical marijuana legally and get paid for by health insurance. Please follow the simple step-by-step instructions.
1. Get a written recommendation from your doctor that cannabinoids are the most appropriate treatment for your case.
2. Go to a certified pharmacy and buy prescription medical cannabis products.
3. Contact the insurance company to reimburse the cost of medication.
There are several types of medication that are covered by health insurance, including Sativex, Dronabinol, Nabilone, cannabis flowers, and full-spectrum cannabis extracts.
Medical cannabis market in Germany
With medical marijuana legalized, weed imports are at their highest levels, and the German market is considered the largest legal cannabis market outside of North America.
According to statistics, around 4 million Germans use marijuana. The following diagram of the imports of cannabis flowers is a confirmation of the high demand for cannabis for therapeutic purposes in Germany. In the first half of 2020, 4126 kg of marijuana were imported, 60% more than in the same period in 2019.
While medical marijuana legalization was expected in Germany, no one predicted that patient demand would be this high. In the first 10 months after the official permission to sell and buy medical cannabis (from March to December 2017), insurance companies received more than 13,000 requests to cover costs. According to reports from insurance companies, they have met around 62-64% of these requests.
In the first year of legalization, the number of patients rose from 1,000 to 8,000 people. By November 2018 there were 40,000 patients. By the end of 2018, legal cannabinoids sales brought $ 73 million into the budget, and sales volume is growing rapidly every year. Revenues are expected to rise to 136 billion by 2028. Currently, around ⅔ of the health insurance companies cover the costs for patients who have been prescribed medical weeds.
Among the problems of the development of the medical marijuana industry
The main challenges related to cannabis use are the need to promote safe access to high quality cannabinoid products and to simplify the prescription dispensing process. Many patients are interested in certified products because growing marijuana plants for personal use is still prohibited by law. However, there are several barriers to buying medical cannabis products safely and cheaply.
On the one hand, many patients cannot afford medical marijuana due to the relatively high cost of treatment with imported cannabis-based drugs (for example, flowers cost around € 23 per gram) and the frequent refusal of insurance companies to cover therapy costs. Some decide to completely abandon the idea of obtaining potentially effective drugs to alleviate their condition, while others prefer to buy marijuana illegally in order to recognize all the risks.
On the other hand, it is also not easy to find a doctor willing to prescribe marijuana even if a patient has a qualifying medical condition. Many doctors fear the increased demand for medical cannabis from patients without essential indications, which can discredit their reputation. Others are generally skeptical of the medicinal properties of cannabinoids. In addition, doctors complain about the increasing bureaucracy and the risk of recourse. It is therefore imperative to simplify the prescribing system while ensuring the safety of doctors and patients.
Perspectives for the Development of the Medical Marijuana Market
As soon as the Bundestag made a landmark decision to legalize medical marijuana, international companies became interested in opening up a new market for their products to sell. The point is that selling cannabinoid products is a lucrative and highly sought-after business. Many products were supplied from Portugal, Canada and the Netherlands as there were no domestic GMP-certified companies in Germany that could take over the production of cannabis-based drugs to meet the needs of the German market.
It used to be expected that by the end of 2020 the first harvest of 650 kg cultivated on German soil would be harvested. However, this has not yet happened for a number of reasons, so the outlook remains relevant for foreign companies.
It is important to understand that there is great potential for cannabis to be used for medicinal purposes. Everyone is interested in the development of the medical marijuana market: patients, overseas suppliers, and local businesses. Now the public is actively raising the question of the full legalization of cannabis and the full opening of the market, which will bring even more prospects for both sides.
The article is based on information from Drapalin experts.
Disclaimer: This article is for information and entertainment purposes only and does not reflect the specific views of the publication.
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