Brno, Czech Republic – The Czech Ministry of Health proposed that medical marijuana be reimbursed by state social and health care insurance funds up to 90% of its cost for a maximum dose of 30 grams per month.
The legislation was brought forward by Health Minister Adam Vojtech (ANO) as part of a wider governmental strategy aimed at improving the access to medical marijuana which, although legal, remains very marginal up until today. Officials estimate that this measure would cost around 150 million crowns per year (around 5.8 million euros) to fund.
Although cannabis use for recreational purposes is illegal in the Czech Republic, using marijuana for therapeutic and health purposes on prescription from a doctor has been legal since April 2013. But very few patients are currently able to procure it, as the use of medical cannabis is not reimbursed by the Czech social insurance and patients have to pay for the entire cost by themselves (around 6.5 euros / gram, a significant price that keeps many patients from being able to use it).
“We’re aware that medical marijuana is still financially out of reach for some patients”, Health Minister Adam Vojtech admitted.
Debunking the myths of cannabis use in the Czech Republic
Moreover, a limited number of doctors are allowed to prescribe it to their patients, and pharmacies throughout the country are insufficiently supplied, making it even more difficult for patients to receive it, regardless of the cost.
As reports points out, although “most international media keep reminding us of how progressive the Czechs are” in respect to marijuana, “the sad and bitter reality is that even today cannabis is practically unavailable to patients. It’s not covered by medical insurance, very few doctors are knowledgeable in this area and the ones who are must be willing to go through a very complicated bureaucratic process to be able to prescribe it”.
As a result, medical marijuana was only prescribed to an average of 67 people per month for a monthly consumption of 6.3 grams last year, an insufficient dosage for their medical needs, according to the few patients who were able to get prescriptions for it. If the state indeed covers up to 90% of the cost of medical marijuana, its use will become much more accessible to Czech patients in need, including low-income households.
Czechs are among the biggest marijuana consumers in Europe
Last November, the Czech Pirates Party announced it was planning to propose a bill to allow people to grow marijuana for their own usage, allegedly winning support from around 40 MP’s from different political parties. The amendment would allow people to cultivate and process up to five hemp plants, according to local news site iDnes.cz.
Currently, the possession of up the 15 grams for personal use of cultivation of five marijuana plants or equivalent is a misdemeanor under Czech law, while cannabis trafficking and possession of larger amounts can lead to jail sentences.
A 2016 survey from the European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Dependency found that the Czech Republic had the highest share of young cannabis or hashish users in Europe, as more than a fifth of Czechs aged 15 to 34 had used the drugs at least once in the previous year. The survey also found that more than 40% of Czechs aged 15-16 years old already had some kind of experience with those drugs.