New cannabis law will open up the Czech market to more growers

The laws concerning medical and technical cannabis are changing on Jan. 1.

ČTK

Written by ČTK Published on 31.12.2021 14:20:00 (updated on 31.12.2021) Reading time: 2 minutes

Doctors in the Czech Republic will newly prescribe medical cannabis by ePrescription only, and no longer by a special paper prescription, as of the New Year. Technical cannabis and its products can newly contain more of the effective substance THC. More people will now be able to legally grow cannabis for distribution. Amendments to the laws on addictive substances and on drugs will take effect on Jan. 1, 2022.

Medical cannabis is used, for example, by patients with chronic pains that are resistant to other drugs. It has been prescribed by selected doctors also for patients with multiple sclerosis, cancer, or AIDS. Since 2020, its price has been covered by health insurers.

From January to November 2021, more than 99 kg of medical cannabis was prescribed to some 4,370 patients. This is a hundred times more than in 2015 when the use of medical cannabis was introduced. The number of patients has risen almost 146 times since.

Based on the new laws, cannabis can be also grown for medical purposes by private subjects, and the healing substance can be produced and distributed under the same conditions as any other addictive substance.

The Health Ministry expects the change to intensify the competition and lower the price of medical preparations containing cannabis, which has been 90-percent covered by public health insurance.

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Until now, the State Drugs Control Institute (SÚKL), which operates the National Agency for Medical Cannabis, has purchased a certain volume of cannabis from a selected supplier based on a public procurement procedure.

The amended laws newly define technical cannabis as that containing up to 1 percent of THC, about three times as much as now. The Chamber of Deputies passed this provision despite the negative stand on it by the Senate and the health minister. The critics warned that the raising of the permitted THC content would be at variance with the relevant international anti-drug convention and would also affect the criminal law's definition of the line between a misdemeanor and a crime. Supporters of the provision argued that it would help farmers.

In addition, cannabis extracts or tinctures with under 1 percent of THC will not be considered addictive substances.

The amendment also empowers the SÚKL to block the websites offering illegal or fake drugs.

After the use of medical cannabis was approved in the Czech Republic, only imported supplies were available initially, later joined by a Czech grower who emerged victorious from a tender put up by the Health Ministry.

Currently, about 200 doctors are entitled to prescribe medical cannabis. Over 192 kg of it has been prescribed to patients since 2015.

According to the statistics from 2020, medical cannabis was most often prescribed by pain specialists, neurologists, rheumatologists, oncologists, orthopedic surgeons, and those caring for dying patients. Most patients used cannabis as a pill and a small number of them as plant material or tea. Some 69 percent of the patients' conditions improved after the treatment.

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