June 4, 2021
The main provisions of the amended bill are as follows:
- Medical cannabis can be grown by several licensed private groups who can also manufacture medical cannabis products.
- The export of medical cannabis is now explicitly legal
- Marketing of extracts like isolates and tinctures is permitted
- The e-prescription system for cannabis will be updated to make the process easier for doctors and patients
- Hemp products with less than 1% THC are not considered an addictive substance and pave the way for the cultivation and production of products with these concentrations
The bill has now cleared the highest hurdle on the way to becoming a law. The Senate and President now have to consider the bill before the bill is officially adopted, but local supporters have high hopes that Wednesday’s approval means good chances and that it will be achieved.
We spoke to Pavel Kubu, CEO of the International Cannabis and Cannabinoids Institute, about recent events and their implications for patients in the Czech Republic: “The parliamentary approval of the law is an important milestone for patients and advocates of medical cannabis in the Czech Republic Republic. We have to be realistic about the amount of work. This law could go a long way in advancing medical cannabis and hemp in the country, but much of it depends on how the laws are implemented, and groups like the ICCI will work hard with the government in the coming months to ensure that the interests of patients are met and industry are honored. “
We also spoke to Hana Gabrielová, the CEO of Hemp Point and President of Hemp Cluster, a non-profit collective that advocates for hemp in the Czech Republic. She stated, “This is a huge win for medical cannabis and hemp advocates in the country, especially given the unanimous support of all political parties for the law. The new regulations on THC levels in hemp are very welcome, but there is still a lot to be done here. Our parliamentary elections are due in the autumn, we will have to work hard and, together with the government, ensure that the new regulations are optimally implemented, many of these details still have to be worked out. “
The Czech Republic goes its own way
The Czech Republic is a pioneer in regulating substances like cannabis, particularly in terms of harm reduction and patient access. Laws in force since 2010 state that possession or use of drugs of any kind in personal amounts is not a criminal offense. Medical cannabis has been legally available in the Czech Republic since 2013. However, access to mandatory products didn’t gain in importance until 2018 and has grown exponentially since then. This has been supported by the latest legislation in place since 2020, which means that 90% of the cost of medical cannabis for amounts up to 30g per month must be borne by insurance agencies.
The growth of the last few years continues to this day and is expected to continue for a few more years. In the first four months of 2021, over 2,419 patients were prescribed 31.6 kilograms of medicinal cannabis, more than twice as much as in the same period in 2020.
Patient access remains restricted
Despite the significant advances in access to medical cannabis in recent years, the number of patients accessing legally prescribed products remains extremely low. Around 10.65 million people live in the Czech Republic, of whom around 3,500 or 0.04% obtained legal medical cannabis in 2020. For comparison, Michigan in the US, which has a slightly smaller population than the Czech Republic, has 250,000 active patients, or 2.5% of the population. We estimate that around 0.1% of adults in Germany use medical cannabis every year, twice as often as in the Czech Republic.
A major problem that is holding back the increase in patient access in the Czech Republic is that regulations have prevented the cultivation of medicinal cannabis and the marketing of products outside of a strictly controlled tendering process and a limited import system.
To date, the only domestic medical cannabis made available to Czech patients comes from the only state-advertised manufacturer Elkoplast Slušovice sro via the only state-advertised distributor Alliance Healthcare sro. Under the new legislation, licenses for the cultivation and manufacture of medicinal cannabis products will be made available to private groups, which should increase the availability and variety of products and lower the final price for patients.
Pavel Kubu stated that the number of new licenses issued will largely depend on how the new law is implemented and who is the leadership overseeing that implementation, as determined by the upcoming elections.
In addition, the update of the medical cannabis prescribing system will mean doctors should be more ready to start prescribing as the paperwork associated with those prescribing has improved.
With the liberalization of medical cannabis in the Czech Republic, there are opportunities to produce cannabis on the market and export it to the European market. We expect patient access growth to continue for several years before the market reaches its full maturity.
Prohibition Partners delves deeper into these topics and the entire supply chain in Europe in its 6th edition of the European Cannabis Report.
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