In the first half of 2015, around 33.8 kilograms of cannabis was sold to chronically ill patients. But that amount ballooned in the first half of this year to 61,8 kilograms – nearly double.
This is according to a statement from the Federal Ministry of Health, answering a parliamentary inquiry from the Die Linke party (the Left Party) and seen by DPA.
The health ministry did not give a reason for the increase. But it is perhaps because more licenses for legal use have been granted: as of the spring of this year, there were 647 patients who had been granted permission to use medical cannabis products from pharmacies. Last spring, there had been 424 licenses issued for doctor-supervised use.
Cannabis is normally illegal in Germany, but after a 2005 ruling by the Federal Administrative Court, people suffering from certain conditions like chronic pain can be granted permission to use the drug for self therapy on an individual basis, but the bar is set fairly high.
In May, Health Minister Hermann Gröhe from Chancellor Angela Merkel’s conservative CDU brought forth a proposed law to formally legalize cannabis for medicinal purposes, and thus allow for more widespread use. He hopes to have the law in force by early 2017, but it still awaits approval by the Bundestag (German parliament).
Under Gröhe’s plan, cannabis products would be grown under state supervision. Until then, they must be imported.
In February 2015, Federal Drugs Commissioner Marlene Mortler announced a reform to allow chronically ill people to have access to cannabis through their health insurance providers, promising this would go into effect in 2016.
At the time, patients were paying high prices for cannabis-based medicines from pharmacies because it was not covered by insurance.
But members of the Left Party have criticized the German government for not doing enough for those who depend on cannabis, pointing out that since Mortler’s announcement, 11 patients died before their bids to legally use cannabis could be processed.
“Perhaps they would still be alive if the federal government had not imposed such unnecessarily high hurdles of bureaucracy,” said the Left Party’s drug policy spokesman Frank Tempel.