State drug institute seeks cannabis supplier

The Czech Republic can't find a domestic source for medical marijuana

The State Institute for Drug Control (SÚKL) is once again looking for a domestic supplier for medical cannabis. People seriously interested in the Kč 6.36 million contract without VAT have until July 10 to register for the tender, SÚKL director Zdeněk Blahuta told the press.

The SÚKL announced the tender in the Journal of Public Procurement. The institute is seeking 40 kilograms that meet quality standards to be verified in a laboratory. The contract would be for a maximum of 48 months.

The institute has tried twice in the past to find a local supplier for cannabis, but both times did not find a source that met all of the qualifications specified in the tender requirements.

The SÚKL previously had a domestic supplier, but the contract ended last year and no local replacement has been found. Patients who qualify for medical marijuana have had to rely on imports from the Netherlands, which are significantly more expensive. The imported version costs Kč 300 per gram, three times as much as local cannabis.

In the Czech Republic, cannabis is available by electronic prescription. Under Czech law cannabis can be used by patients with cancer, multiple sclerosis or AIDS. It can be prescribed by oncologists, neurologists, palliative medicine experts, geriatricians, psychiatrists and some other types of doctors.

The problem with getting a local supplier is that under the law, conditions are not favorable. The amount of local consumption of medical marijuana is low, and the amount the state will purchase is not guaranteed. There is no other legal customer than the state. If the law was changed to allow exports, then medical cannabis could become a lucrative business, as other countries have also legalized use of medical marijuana and need a supplier.

The country also lacks a specific person to deal with the issue of medical marijuana, and inquiries from potential suppliers go unanswered.

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

Medical marijuana has been legal in the Czech Republic since April 1, 2013. The bill allowing prescription cannabis in pharmacies was passed by the Chamber of Deputies on Dec. 7, 2012. The Senate passed the bill Jan. 30, 2013. The law allows for 180 grams of dry cannabis matter per month for each patient.

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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