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Pharmaceuticals

German court rules chronic sufferers may grow own pot

A German court has ruled that some chronic-pain sufferers may cultivate their own cannabis. Five people brought the complaint after the Federal Institute for Drugs and Medical Devices refused them permission to do so.

Helping to settle a long-running debate on the legality of medical marijuana in Germany, the administrative court in the western city of Cologne ruled on Tuesday that the Federal Institute for Drugs and Medical Devices (BfArM) must reconsider three of the requests by patients to grow their own that it had rejected. Though the plaintiffs all had permits to buy and consume cannabis for therapeutic purposes, they wanted to cultivate their own because they could not afford to purchase marijuana and their health insurance did not cover it.

On Tuesday, the court ruled that three of the plaintiffs had met the requirements to produce the drug, calling it "sufficiently certain" that third parties would not be able to access the plants and products.

"Until now it has not been legal for anyone to grow cannabis at home, but these seriously ill people will now be allowed to," court spokeswoman Stefanie Seifert said, adding that it remained illegal for others.

"This is not a carte blanche for everyone to start growing cannabis at home," Seifert said. "They have to be seriously ill people for whom nothing else works other than cannabis."

Two complaints rejected

The court rejected the other two patients' complaints, the first because the judges did not believe that the patient could keep the medicinal cannabis away from unauthorized people and the second because they did not think the plaintiff had exhausted all other treatment options. In the ruling, the justices stressed the necessity of assessing whether individuals met the requirements to grow their own cannabis on an case-by-case basis.

The BfArM could still appeal the ruling, which came as many parts of the world have relaxed laws on recreational cannabis use and medicinal marijuana has gained popularity for easing suffering from cancer, glaucoma, HIV and AIDS, Hepatitis C, Parkinson's disease and other serious conditions. The question remains whether Germany could later follow suit.

mkg/pfd (Reuters, AFP, dpa, epd)

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