Czech government moves to granting medical marijuana production licences to multiple growers

Photo: chcifyc, Pixabay / CC0

The Czech government has approved a draft amendment to the Act on Addictive Substances that will allow issuing licences to both grow and export medical marijuana. The bill would also newly allow more than a single central producer, with the State Institute for Drug Control granting licences to smaller ones.

Photo: chcifyc,  Pixabay,  CC0 1.0 DEED

Zdeněk Majzlík with his daughter,  photo: Romana Lehmannová,  Czech Radio
People suffering from a range of diseases have long called for making medical marijuana, which has been technically legal in the Czech Republic for many years now, easier to obtain and less expensive.

This January, public health insurance was extended to cover medical marijuana, under certain conditions. The first patient in the Czech Republic to be fully reimbursed is a 52-year-old woman who has suffered from a progressive form of multiple sclerosis since her late twenties, and found little relief from traditional medicines.

Her father, Zdeněk Majzlík, regularly collects 180 grams of medical marijuana for her each month, rolls six joints for her daily consumption, and adds small does to her food.

“She was really thinking of ending of her life because she couldn't take it anymore. Now, a doctor writes out a prescription, sends it to the ‘review’ doctor, who either approves it or not, and sends it back to the prescribing doctor. If approved, you then are sent a code which you can take to the pharmacy.”

Photo: H. Zell,  CC BY-SA 3.0
That’s not as simple as it sounds. Currently there are only 90 pharmacies in the country are authorised to buy and resell to patients Czech-grown cannabis, from the lone authorized distributor, Alliance Healthcare.

Also, the Ministry of Health has introduced 64 possible prescription codes, each of which represents a type of cannabis with a precisely defined content of CBD and THC, the psychoactive component that produces a ‘high’.

Meanwhile, interest in CBD products has risen further still in the Czech Republic over recent months as people sought alternative ways of coping with stress and anxiety stemming from coping with the ongoing coronavirus crisis.

Tomáš Vymazal,  photo: Archive of the Czech Pirate Party,  Flickr,  CC BY-SA 2.0
Currently, a single domestic grower, Elkoplast Slušovice, supplies most medical marijuana on the Czech market. Canadian producers including Aurora Cannabis, Canopy Growth and Tilray have exported small quantities here.

Earlier in the week, MPs backed a proposal by the Pirate Party to join the discussion of two amendments to the Addictive Substances Act, one by the opposition party, regulating the handling of cannabis for self-use, and the other by the Ministry of Health on making medical marijuana more available. Pirate Party MP Tomáš Vymazal called it a small but significant step.

“For the first time, members of Parliament will have to deal with the legalization of cannabis, which has so far been parked among stacks of pending proposals. Now it is up to us to convince MPs to deal with legalization in committees… The Czech people have long called for this issue to be discussed in Parliament.”

According to the State Institute for Drug Control, from January through April, nearly 16 kilos of medical marijuana were sold on the Czech market, roughly as much as was sold in the whole of 2019.

The growth is evidence of pent-up demand for products with CBD, the essential component of medical marijuana derived from hemp and prescribed to alleviate chronic pain, reduce anxiety and control seizures, among other things.