The December 7 ruling, which has not yet gone into effect, was made by a Federal Administrative Court in Münster, reports DW. Under the ruling, severely ill Germans -- for whom no other therapies are available or effective, but who may receive a medical benefit from cannabis -- may be allowed to grow medical marijuana at home.
Patients who wish to take part can apply to the Federal Institute for Drugs and Medical Devices (BfArM) for permission to treat themselves with homegrown marijuana, with use monitored by a medical doctor.
Previously, all such medicinal cannabis requests were refused by directive of the Federal Ministry of Health. The Federal Administrative Court ruled that this practice is illegal.
|Dr. Franjo Grotenhermen: "This ruling is a milestone"|
"This ruling is a milestone on the path to a better supply of German citizens with cannabis-based medicines," said Franjo Grotenhermen, chairman of the German Association for Cannabis as Medicine.
"Cannabis products from the pharmacy are unaffordable for most patients," Grotenhermen said. "Legalized growing of the plant at home opens up for them for the first time an affordable alternative. It is unbearable that many patients have to rely on illegal sources or illegal self-cultivation of their medical need."
Unfortunately, patients whose health insurance covers the cost of treatment with cannabinoid-based medications will not get a permit for cultivation, the court said.
In the particular case of a plaintiff suffering from multiple sclerosis, the judges ruled in favor of the government, which had denied him an approval for cannabis cultivation. The plaintiff had not been able to convince the court that the court that the artificial cannabinoid dronabinol (synthetic THC) doesn't have the same medical effect as the cannabis he grew for himself.
|Kanzlei Menschen und Rechte|
|Dr. Oliver Tolmein: "Dronabinol acts only as a supplement"|
"Dronabinol acts only as a supplement," said Dr. Oliver Tolmein, an attorney for the plaintiff. He said that people who use it require less cannabis to achieve the same effect.
The government's arguments for denying all patient requests to cultivate medicinal cannabis were completely rejected by the court, however. "If an affordable treatment option is missing, a license for personal cultivation of cannabis has to be taken into consideration -- at the discretion of the BfArM," the court ruled.
The Federal Institute for Drugs and Medical Devices will not be allowed to require applicants who want to grow their own cannabis to put strict safeguards against theft into place, as is required of pharmaceutical companies. The provisions of the German Narcotics Act, as well as international drug control treaties, would have to be applied to private individuals for that to be possible.
German lawmakers are required to act after this court decision, according to Dr. Tolmein. "If the Ministry of Health does not want patients to grow cannabis for self-therapy, it has to be made absolutely clear in the law on health insurances that they have to reimburse the cost of cannabinoid-containing medicines or medicinal cannabis for otherwisea untreatable patients," Dr. Tolmein said.
A medically supervised treatment with cannabis or cannabinoids is currently possible in one of two different ways in Germany. First, dronabinol, the synthetic THC derivative nabilone and the cannabis extract Sativex (which contains equal parts THC and CBD) may be prescribed. Secondly, the medical use of herbal marijuana, obtained at a pharmacy and imported from the Netherlands, is legally possible. This, however, requires a special permit from the government.
The ruling of the Supreme Administrative Court is not yet final; more complaints by seriously ill patients who have been denied permission to cultivate cannabis are currently before the Administrative Court of Cologne.