Germany is set to become the latest country to legalize the use of cannabis for medicinal purposes, with the nation’s health minister confirming earlier this week that the German cabinet had approved the move. Though an exact date for the first permissible puff of medical marijuana has not yet been set, government officials expect the new law to come into effect by this time next year.
According to CNN, German health minister Hermann Gröhe wants health insurance companies to foot the bill for patients in severe pain to access the drug in situations where other treatments have failed and “no therapeutic alternative” is available.
The active ingredient in marijuana, THC, binds to cannabinoid receptors in the brain in order to numb feelings of pain, while also bringing about changes in mood and appetite. For this reason, the drug has been approved for medicinal use in several countries around the world, including Australia, while a number of U.S. states also allow the therapeutic use of cannabis – despite the fact that it remains illegal on a federal level.
Four states – Alaska, Colorado, Oregon, and Washington – as well as the District of Columbia have gone one step further by legalizing the recreational use of marijuana, as has the South American country Uruguay.
However, while many public health officials are calling for the rest of the world to follow suit and legalize the use of marijuana, the drug’s safety profile remains the subject of some debate. For instance, some studies have found links between sustained weed smoking and cognitive impairment, leading many scholars and politicians to urge caution when using the drug.
Germany’s drug commissioner Marlene Mortler therefore stated that while “the use of cannabis as a medicine within narrow limits is useful and should be explored in more detail… cannabis is not a harmless substance.” As such, she insists that “legalization for private pleasure is not the aim and purpose of this [legislation]. It is intended for medical use only."