More MS news articles for Oct 2001

Bill would fund medicinal marijuana for the Dutch

Saturday, October 20, 2001
The Associated Press

AMSTERDAM, Netherlands -- The Dutch Cabinet approved a bill Friday that would allow pharmacies to fill marijuana prescriptions and for the government to pay for them.

Parliament is expected to vote in the next few months on the proposal to put medicinal marijuana on the national healthcare plan. If the bill is passed by the 150-seat legislature, pharmacies would be supplied with "pharmaceutical quality" marijuana after testing by a government agency.

Although the sale of marijuana is technically illegal, Dutch authorities tolerate the sale of small amounts in hundreds of so-called "coffee shops" that operate openly. A gram of marijuana costs about $4.

Under the new law, most users would have the cost of their joints paid by the government as long as it is prescribed by a doctor.

A government statement recognized that some patrons of coffee shops use marijuana to alleviate pain.

"An increasing number of patients suffering illnesses such as cancer, AIDS, and multiple sclerosis receive medicinal cannabis," it said.

The law is needed to remove an "undesirable" contradiction between practice and law "despite lack of scientific evidence" of the effects of marijuana use, the statement said.

Many patients using the drug without professional assistance have had successful results, it added. "Experiences are positive: less pain, less nausea after chemotherapy, less stiffness with MS," the statement said.

The prescription marijuana would be grown along government guidelines. Growing marijuana is also illegal but tolerated in small quantities, and the Netherlands produces some of the most potent varieties in the world.

Though several countries tolerate marijuana use by medical patients, only Canada licenses them to legally grow and possess it, said Paul Armentano, a spokesman for the Washington-based National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws. The Canadian government is also growing marijuana and plans to create a government-run system to distribute it.

Britain has licensed a company, GW Pharmaceuticals, to grow large amounts of marijuana to develop a medical extract, such as a spray that patients can spray in their mouths. However, smoking marijuana remains illegal there.

In the United States, nine states have exempted medical patients from prosecution under state laws, but they can still be arrested under federal laws, Armentano said.

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