Source: The Prague Post
February 29, 2012
By Markéta Hulpachová - Staff Writer
Parliamentary parties support legalization of cannabis for patients
Those suffering from cancer, Alzheimer’s, AIDS and a host of other chronic diseases may soon receive prescriptions for medicinal marijuana to alleviate their symptoms, according to a draft bill now under debate in Parliament.
The government was poised to debate a draft bill legalizing medicinal marijuana in the Chamber of Deputies Feb. 28, with all parliamentary parties reaching a rare consensus on the issue in preliminary discussions.
The current draft bill would create an electronic system through which eligible patients would receive prescription marijuana at pharmacies. Initially, the state would import the marijuana from abroad and eventually cultivate a domestic network of licensed growers.
The proposed price for the prescription would be around 200-250 Kč per gram. The measures would take approximately two years to implement, according to official estimates.
Drug control police were not opposed to the move but emphasized the differences between allowing marijuana consumption for medicinal purposes and complete legalization.
"The law should take a strict approach and draw a clear line on this issue," said National Drug Squad spokesman Michal Hammer. "When police lack a clear framework, it becomes difficult for officers to assess potential misdemeanors on the street."
The proposal met with support from deputies across the political spectrum, including conservatives from the center-right Civic Democratic Party (ODS).
"If we have effective treatment that relieves seriously ill patients from painful diseases, then we cannot hesitate and accept even one more day of unnecessary suffering," Chamber of Deputies Speaker Miroslava Němcová (ODS) told The Prague Post last November, when deputies signed a multipartisan petition on the issue. "I’ve spoken to a number of specialist doctors and also listened to what patients themselves have had to say. The situation needs to change."
Despite an initial show of goodwill from MPs, the draft bill faces an uphill journey through the legislature before it takes its final form.
Cabinet ministers indicated their opposition to the bill in its current form ahead of their Feb. 28 meeting, indicating they would submit their own version to Parliament, according to a Feb. 27 Czech News Agency report.
In particular, Cabinet members argue the current proposal does not adequately focus on domestic marijuana production, thus delaying the drug’s delivery to needy patients. They also oppose a measure that would grant five-year licenses to local growers, who would have to possess the necessary equipment before participating in public tenders.
The entire system of licensing and production is slated to fall under the auspices of the National Drug Control Center, which ministers argue lacks the competency to grow marijuana.
Another unresolved issue is financing, as it is not yet clear whether public insurers would fund marijuana prescriptions.
"With the currently proposed prices, patients would end up paying more than 10,000 Kč a month if they used marijuana regularly," said Jiří Novák of Legalizace.cz, a civic initiative promoting legalization of cannabis. "A majority of target users are pensioners and invalids whose annual income from the state is less than this amount."