Czech Republic: Medical marijuana still not accessible
Half a year after the legalisation of medical cannabis, patients in the Czech Republic are still struggling to gain access to the medicine.
The legalisation of medical marijuana has been sweeping through many countries in the last few years. Yet people in the Czech Republic, who were thought to be at the forefront of this legalisation in Europe, still can’t get access. Obstacles are making it hard at every stage of the process, with doctors struggling to hand out the prescriptions they want, and commercial outlets finding it difficult to obtain a licensed supply.
It was only this November that the Ministry of Health announced it had issued its first commercial license for the import and sale of medical cannabis to the company Elkoplast Slusovice s.r.o. - who has said it will only import 3 kilograms to start off with. This goes to show that the current system within the Czech Republic is not working. Despite a massive demand for supply, no-one seems to be willing to import it, bottlenecking it for those who need it.
Obstacles placed by the Ministry of Health
Dr. Tomas Zabransky, who advises the Czech government, United Nations and European Union on drug policy has been one of the most vocal on the inefficacy of the current system. He said “The system isn’t working at all yet. Other than this supplier, there is no demand because of administrative obstacles by the Ministry of Health”. Not only this, but he goes on to describe how the law on medical cannabis requires the prescription to be electronic, a system that has not been rolled out to many doctors surgeries or pharmacies yet, as it is extremely costly. What this means is that even if doctors do want to prescribe cannabis, they cannot.
It would appear, that even though government has voted for its legalisation, the Ministry of Health, who was largely opposed to the legalisation, is placing as many barriers as it can between patient and medicine. In addition to this, it has been decided that there should be no government subsidence for prescribed cannabis - meaning prices will stay high. This is a problem for a lot of patients, as they quite often are unemployed due to their illness, meaning they are presented with yet another obstacle.
Until cannabis becomes available and reasonably priced, many patients are left with no option but to continue to buy from the unregulated market – exactly what the government was trying to combat in the first place.
The road towards legalisation of cannabis and full access is a rocky one. At its current rate, the Czech Republic should see pharmacies stocked with cannabis by the end of December, but whether the systems will be in place for them to legally distribute it is questionable.