Germany’s legal medical cannabis market keeps facing challenges ever since medical marijuana was legalized in March 2017.
Availability and pricing of the drug have been the major issue for patients and their doctors.
Initially, we reported here on Greendorphin that even though patients would not be able to home grow, the German government would cover medical cannabis under its universal health care program and patients would be able to access their medication very cheaply.
There were talks of patients being able to access as much as 5 ounces cannabis flower a month for approximately $12.
This sounded too good to be true and it surely was as Germany’s top Cannabis Doctor, Dr Franjo Grotenherman, Chair of the International Association for Cannabinoid Medicines started a hunger strike on 12 May 2017, due to a dramatic jump in the cost of medicinal cannabis.
Health insurers are obligated to cover the cost of medical cannabis for patients, however, a third of the claims remain rejected by insurance companies according to a Rheinische Post survey of Germany’s biggest health insurers.
For those that get rejected by the insurers, have to pay 25 to 30 Euros for a gram of dried cannabis flowers.
Demand grew very quickly for cannabis, making it hard for the government and importers to keep up with the supply of the medication. During March 2017, the month cannabis was legalised, doctors wrote 560 prescriptions for dry cannabis flowers. Three months later in June, there were nearly 5000 prescriptions, amounting to over 10,600 prescriptions according to the Federal Union of German Association of Pharmacists (ABDA).
And these are only the numbers that have been approved and paid for by the health insurers. There were another 12,500 medical cannabis units sold to patients who footed the bill themselves.
Such a demand has put a huge pressure on supply, as Germany’s local production is not up to speed yet.
By August of last year, many patients were sent away from pharmacies due to lack of cannabis. Some patients were advised in August that medical cannabis would be available again in October.
Until the local infrastructure for production is built, Germany is reliant on imports. The only medical cannabis producer in Europe is a Dutch company that has to meet the fast-growing demand from the entire European Union.
Looking for sources beyond the EU, Germany imported the first lot of 50kg of medical cannabis last September, from Canadian producer, Aurora Cannabis, based in Alberta.
Overall the lack of availability of cannabis medication is a sign of the success of the program.
Across the world in Australia for example, where medical cannabis was legalised about the same time, there had been only 153 patients approved.
Australia has plenty of supply going off in warehouses, while doctors in Germany can’t have enough for their patients.
If you look at it from that point, Germany’s problem means that the system is working and cannabis medication is being prescribed to patients, while Australia’s program has failed spectacularly.