No domestic producers for medical marijuana

The government will try to solve the problems that have blocked the market

Patients still have great difficulty acquiring medical marijuana in the Czech Republic, even though it has been legal for that purpose since April 1, 2013. The state so far has been unable to find a domestic supplier for the plant. So far, it is the only country out of 50 that have legalized medical marijuana to face that problem.

Prime Minister Bohuslav Sobotka (ČSSD) wants to address the situation before the upcoming election. Sobotka is also the chair of the government's council on drug policy.

Government spokesman Martin Ayrer said that in the next few weeks there would be meetings between the prime minister, the anti-drug coordinator and the health minister to discuss ways of moving forward.

National Anti-Drug Coordinator Jindřich Vobořil told daily Hospodářské noviny that the Czech Republic was one of three countries in the EU that allowed growing of hemp for medicinal purposes, and soon it would be allowed to export.

The other two countries that allow growing are Italy and the Netherlands.

Vobořil said that he gets lots of inquiries from people that want to get into the medical marijuana business in the Czech Republic, but he has nobody to refer them to as nobody has been made responsible for the issue. The market could be worth hundreds of billions of crowns.

Exporting marijuana would require a change to the law. Germany could be a potential customer, for example.

Tenders for medical marijuana have been canceled several times by the State Institute for Drug Control (SÚKL). One reason is that the conditions are not attractive due to the currently low demand and a lack of guarantees for sales. If export was also possible, then potential growers would be more interested.

Price is also an issue, as imported marijuana is much more expensive than the domestic type. This also limits demand currently, as few patients are willing to pay that much.

If the government sets up a reimbursement policy for disabled patients, then many more patients would be interested in trying to get approval to use it, according to Hospodářské noviny.

The bill allowing prescription cannabis in pharmacies was passed by the Chamber of Deputies on Dec. 7, 2012, with 126 votes in favor and 7 against, while 27 abstained and 46 were absent. The Senate passed the bill Jan. 30, 2013. Some 67 senators voted in favor and two against, while five abstained and seven were absent. Only imported cannabis was allowed in the first year he law was in effect, but after that, sales were open to registered domestic producers.

The law allows for 180 grams of dry cannabis matter per month, prescribed by specialized physicians. It can be obtained using an electronic prescription form.

Cannabis is illegal for recreational use, but personal possession has been decriminalized since Jan. 1, 2010, in the Czech Republic. Possession of up to 15 grams of dry cannabis for personal use, or cultivation of up to five plants, is a misdemeanor under laws enacted in 2010, and violators can face a fine of up to Kč 15,000.

Possession of larger amounts can lead to one year in jail. Trafficking, though, has a maximum penalty of 18 years.

Czechs rank among the top cannabis users in Europe, according to the European Monitoring Center for Drugs and Drug Addiction.

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