It should be noted that this article is for information purposes only and should not, under any circumstances, be accepted as legal advice.
Although the scientific debate about the effectiveness of medical marijuana continues, many countries are taking the first steps towards implementing programmes designed to introduce medical marijuana as a treatment for patients with chronic pain and terminal illnesses. Legal issues are often a problem for many patients hoping to employ medical marijuana as a method of relieving pain, and taking steps towards making marijuana available for certain patients prescriptions bypasses many of the legal problems those patients face in obtaining it. Below is a brief examination of some of the countries that have made provisions for their patients with chronic pain or other such illnesses.
One of the most recent countries to announce plans to legalize the use of medical marijuana, Germany isn’t actually ‘legalizing’ marijuana use. While it may seem like a contradiction in terms, Health Minister Phillip Roesler announced that the plan could be carried out by simply changing the Ministry of Health’s policy, and that no actual change in German Law was necessary. The announcement in August 2010 was welcomed by health professionals, who consider marijuana useful for relieving nausea and stimulating appetite in chemotherapy patients. Prior to the announcement, only 40 patients in the country had obtained medical marijuana prescriptions.
Canada shares a certain similarity with Germany when it comes to medical marijuana prescriptions, in that the country’s laws concerning marijuana are under dispute. While superior and appellate courts in Ontario have repeatedly declared Canada’s marijuana laws to be of no force, challenges to marijuana laws at a federal level have not resulted in the deletion of the appropriate articles from the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act. The Canadian police and prosecution services still pursue criminal charges for marijuana possession, with the exception of patients prescribed medical marijuana for treatment. The dichotomy between the levels of law means that the final legalization of medical Marijuana in Canada is debated by differing political parties.
In 1999, Israel legalized the use of cannabis (the plant from which medical marijuana is derived) for use by patients suffering from symptoms such as pain, nausea, and loss of appetite. As the cultivation of the plant became legal, the number of patients prescribed it grew from ten in the year 2005 to around 700 in 2009, and the total is expected to reach a figure of 1,200 by 2010. The use of medical marijuana has also spread with its legalization, and bone marrow transplantation patients are sometimes treated with drops of oil derived from the cannabis plant.
While it may come as a surprise, a little-known federal medical marijuana program (referred to as a Compassionate Investigational New Drug programme) resulted from a lawsuit filed by glaucoma patient Robert Randall, who successfully showed his use of marijuana was medically necessary. After a flood of new applicants from patients battling conditions such as AIDS, the government closed the programme in 1992 to new applicants – but kept supplying the patients already enrolled. Officially classified as a ‘study’, the programme resulted in such media personalities as George McMahon (author of ‘Prescription Pot’) and Irvin Rossfield, notably featured on the Penn & Teller television show.