By Steve Elliott of Toke of the Town
The Czech Ministry of Health has said it will take marijuana off the list of banned substances and for the first time allow it to be prescribed as medicine by doctors.
"By the end of this year we will submit to Parliament an amended law on addictive substances which will move marihuana from the list of banned substances to the list of those which can be prescribed," Deputy Health Minister Martin PlÃÅ¡ek said, reports Chris Johnstone at CzechPosition.com.
The promised policy change comes after increasing evidence of marijuana's beneficial effects for those suffering from cancer, Parkinson's disease and other illnesses, CzechPosition reports. More and more Czechs are growing cannabis and resorting to home remedies due to the existing ban on its prescription, according to the site.
The number of grow shops offering equipment used to cultivate cannabis has ballooned across the country over the past two years, with even small Czech towns boasting outlets selling sophisticated gear, Johnstone reports.
Several prominent members of the Czech government support the legalization of marijuana, including Miroslava N?mcovÃ¡, a Civic Democrat who is speaker of the lower chamber of Parliament, as well as top members of the Public Affairs party such as Chairman Radek John.
Ministry experts are still working on the details of legalized sales of medicinal cannabis. Minister PlÃÅ¡ek said at a press conference on September 13 that he would prefer to see marijuana imported for Czech use, rather than creating a homegrown industry which might be "abused."
"We must take steps to ensure that there is no massive abuse without a doctor's prescription," PlÃÅ¡ek said.
The government officials will investigate models for distributing medical marijuana in the Czech Republic. The frequently cited example of Israel, which started allowing medical marijuana 12 years ago, involves the state licensing eight farms to grow cannabis with distribution to about 7,500 registered patients.
Marijuana is the most popular drug in the Czech Republic; the nation already decriminalized possession of small amounts of pot for personal use and the cultivation of a limited number of plants at the start of 2010. But possession still remains punishable, with police able to impose spot fines.
Germany responded by stepping up searches of Czech citizens at the border, and some observers predict that legalizing medical marijuana could fuel such tensions with the Czech Republic's neighboring countries in Europe.
Article From Toke of the Town and republished with special permission.