Update: The German parliament (Bundestag) passed a law on Thursday that officially makes marijuana legal for medicinal purposes.
Patients suffering from serious illnesses, such as multiple sclerosis, chronic pain, serious appetite loss, or nausea from chemotherapy, will now be able to receive prescriptions from their doctors for medical marijuana.
"Seriously ill people must be treated in the best ways possible," said Health Minister Hermann Gröhe, who proposed the law.
Up until now, only certain people with serious medical conditions could be granted permission to use the drug for self-therapy, and the bar was set fairly high. Only around 1,000 people in the whole country currently have been given permission to use the drug.
The new law will expand this and eventually allow cannabis products to be grown under state supervision. Private producers could also apply, but the requirements for approval would be very strict.
When the law will be implemented in March, health insurance providers will have to cover the costs of cannabis used to treat, for example, pain or lack of appetite.
But proponents of the law don’t all see it as opening up the way for recreational use. Federal Drug Commissioner Marlene Mortler of the conservative Christian Social Union (CSU) said on Monday that in her view, increasing access by allowing for recreational use would also increase consumption of the drug - which she would not want.
“Cannabis as a medicine is certainly not a miracle drug,” Mortier said. “But everyone should have the right to have it paid for when it helps.”