31 Oct 2017

Poland (sort of) legalizes medical marijuana

From today on, Polish patients will find themselves in a truly Kafkian situation. Yes, they can finally buy medical marijuana. But no one in Poland is allowed to grow it.

Zuzanna Piechowicz
Zuzanna Piechowicz Tok FM, Poland
Source: Tok FM
Poland (sort of) legalizes medical marijuana - NewsMavens
Marijuana leaf. Image from Wikimedia Commons

Why this story matters:

The issue is far from marginal. Thanks to a new law, passed in June and coming into force today, over 300,000 people -- suffering from drug-resistant epilepsy, Parkinson’s disease, anorexia or Tourette syndrome -- will be able to legally use marijuana to ease their pain and prevent nausea. All doctors are now permitted to prescribe marijuana-based medications. The only problem is that prescription itself does not mean you will be able to obtain the drug. First, it needs to be imported from abroad, most likely from Holland or Canada.

Members of the ruling party Law and Justice (PiS) who stood behind the bill fear the idea of a national production of medical marijuana. They believe it would soon lead to cannabis being used for recreational purposes. According to dr Marek Bachański, the face and the spokesman for medical marijuana in Poland, it would be best if the cultivation of cannabis was permitted under governmental supervision. “The current bill seems to open many doors. It’s just that there is not much behind them,” explained dr Bachański.

Few Polish doctors know how to treat patients with medical marijuana. Even fewer pharmacists are prepared to sell it. Training is yet to follow.

But, the subject itself has been present in Polish public debate for quite some time, and has gained many advocates. Among them are dr Bachański, a neurologist who lost a job for using cannabis in therapy, or Dorota Gudaniec, whose son suffers from drug-resistant epilepsy (medical marijuana has been a game changer in the boy’s treatment). The late Tomasz Kalita, a renowned Polish politician who died of brain cancer, was also a supporter of marijuana-based treatment.

Yet, few of us expected that this law, still quite progressive for Polish standards, would be passed under the administration of the conservative, right-wing Law and Justice party. It is one of the few moments we have been pleasantly surprised in the past two years.

Details from the story:

  • Medical marijuana is legal in Poland
  • However, the production of marijuana is illegal, regardless of whether it is meant for medical or recreational use.
  • Up to 300 thousand patients can benefit from the new law.
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