His name is Günter Weiglein. He is 49 years old, married and has two sons. Before his serious motorcycle accident in 2002, for which he was not to blame, he was a designer in the automobile construction industry. Since his accident, he has been taking life into his own hands as the manager of "Rent a Pizzeria" and cannabis activist. Günter has been treating his chronic pains with natural cannabis since 2006. Since 2009, he has been in possession of a certificate of exemption to legally buy cannabis flowers from the pharmacy.
His name is Günter Weiglein. He is 49 years old, married and has two sons. Before his serious motorcycle accident in 2002, for which he was not to blame, he was a designer in the automobile construction industry. Since his accident, he has been taking life into his own hands as the manager of “Rent a Pizzeria” and cannabis activist. Günter has been treating his chronic pains with natural cannabis since 2006. Since 2009, he has been in possession of a certificate of exemption to legally buy cannabis flowers from the pharmacy. Just six months after obtaining this licence, he submitted an application to grow his own cannabis, which has not been granted to date.
A slow grind
Günter Weiglein has now been fighting to grow his own medicinal cannabis for over four years. The ultimate achievement – the authority to grow cannabis himself – is still not reality due to the failure of the Federal Institute for Drugs and Medical Devices (Bundesinstitut für Arzneimittel und Medizinprodukte, BfArM) to issue this licence — even after a positive verdict was reached in July this year in Cologne.
Günter had in fact not expected anything else. His lawyer informed him a few weeks ago that the BfArM appealed on 27 August 2014. The reasons for the appeal would have to be provided within four weeks. As Sensi Seeds found out, however, a deadline of 1 December 2014 was now being requested for providing the reasons.
Günter’s initial response is that “the game at the expense of my health and that of many other people will merrily continue.”
Brief look back on the Cologne verdict
It looked as though the year-long struggle of three patients to grow their own cannabis was going to have a positive conclusion, because on 22 July 2014, the Administrative Court in Cologne ruled that the BfArM must reach a new verdict on individual applications to grow medicinal cannabis. The judge, Andreas Fleischfresser, suggested during the process that the state is not generally allowed to prohibit chronically ill individuals from accessing cannabis, especially when the plant is their only effective medicine. The judge acknowledged that the conditions and treatment methods that the patients have come to expect are degrading.
Horrendous price for medicinal cannabis
In December 2009, Günter Weiglein obtained the licence for cannabis flowers from the pharmacy which are delivered by the Dutch company Bedrocan. Jack Herer from Sensi Seeds is one of the varieties of hemp seeds that Bedrocan uses for the pharmacies’ cannabis. As a hybrid, Jack Herer is known for embodying the core of the Indica–Sativa spectrum, in other words to relax the body yet still produce the high effect, which one needs to get through the daily grind.
It is definitely a good thing, but unfortunately it is unaffordable, because the German health insurance companies do not cover the costs of treatment with medicinal hemp flowers. A small box of 5 grams of cannabis flos costs Günter 72 euros, which equals 14.40 euros per gram. His daily requirement is around 2 grams per day. That’s an estimated monthly outlay of around 900 euros.
900 euros for a plant”, exclaims Günter, “that can’t be right!”
He and many of the other 300-odd cannabis patients in Germany are simply unable to afford their medication.
Individually grown medicinal cannabis
On the day that Günter received his cannabis licence from the pharmacy, it was already clear to him that he would be unable to pay for his medication both then and in the future, which is why he submitted his application to grow his own medicinal cannabis just six months later.
Günter was able to prove to the court that he is able to grow his cannabis securely, in accordance with all prescribed regulations and without allowing third parties to access it, but the BfArM was still unwilling to listen.
As with any other medication, it is also true of cannabis that the body gets used to taking it. After a certain amount of time, the patient starts craving a different variety or a different dosage. In Günter’s case, the four varieties offered by Bedrocan are not strong enough. He needs the cannabis to have a different CBD and THC content. It is a question of being able to and allowed to try it, if you want to find the medication that best suits your own situation.
What’s more, compared to other cannabis patients, Günter is physically able to grow his own medication, which is something that many of the other German patients are unable to do, as their physical and/or medical conditions don’t permit it.
How medicinal cannabis helps Günter
One weekend, in a group of friends, he was offered a joint. Someone told him that he should try it to ease his pains. After just two puffs, Günter noticed how his complete muscular system relaxed and the constant tension he felt in his body eased.
Cannabis doesn’t eliminate the pain in his body completely, but it does ease it. He estimates that by taking medicinal cannabis, he can only feel 30-40% of his pain, making everyday life much more worth living. Due to their relaxing effect, Günter prefers Indica strains.
It’s true that conventional medication also has good painkilling properties, but only at the cost of many unwanted side effects, such as stomach pains, problems falling asleep and sleeping through the night, breaking into a sweat etc. Cannabis is side-effect-free unless he takes too much, in which case he gets tired, and has to lie down and rest.
Günter is able to follow his gut instinct, however, and knows precisely how much of his medicinal cannabis he needs to get through everyday life pain and side-effect-free. Cannabis allows him to go about life as normal.
Cannabis consumption for medicinal reasons only
Günter has a very unique, interesting opinion on cannabis consumption:
I say to everyone who smokes cannabis that they should do it for medicinal rather than recreational purposes. People may believe that they smoke for recreational purposes, but I tell them that they aren’t.”
People who don’t agree with this statement try to explain it.
Managers who smoke a joint rather than reach for the bottle of wine after a long difficult day in the office want to wind down and relax.
No one takes cannabis to get ill from it. Those who don’t agree with it don’t touch the stuff. They are non-smokers. They don’t need it. Those who smoke it expect to benefit from it, which is yet another reason why the plant should be legal.
“We are the Trojan Horse for the legalisation movement”
Günter believes that it will be possible to consume cannabis legally in less than 10 years’ time. He also believes, however, that cannabis will only be legalised as a result of medical advances. He believes that cannabis patients are the Trojan Horse of the legalisation movement.
Even Günter looks regularly to the other side of the Pond, where cannabis was initially legalised for medicinal purposes in 23 US states and even for recreational use in two states. Even what’s happening in Uruguay is not going unnoticed here in Europe.
He estimates that Germany will lag right behind in the entire legalisation process. The laws in Spain, Portugal and the Netherlands are already much more liberal.
Plans for the future
I would like cannabis to be legal in the future, as an anaesthetic, as a drug and as a fibre.”
These are the things that he is campaigning for. Meanwhile, Günter has become a well-known face in the fight to legalise and regulate cannabis. And it’s not just patients who turn to him: he has also answered many media questions over time, especially in light of the verdict that was reached in Cologne in July this year.
He is currently working with his lawyer, Matthias Schillow, to establish an association, Medizinalhanf Invest e.G., whose aim it is to supply German cannabis patients with their medication:
For many patients it is unreasonable and often also impossible to grow the hemp flowers prescribed for their treatment and most essential hemp flowers themselves… The association wants to redress this and supply the patients with medicinal hemp. The plan is to grow hemp plants organically, and that by meeting scientific growing standards, the pharmacologically significant active substances THC and CBD can be declared and guaranteed… Our aim is to beat the global prices that currently apply in the pharmaceutical industry and to bring the age-old traditional medicine to market at affordable prices.”
It should also be mentioned that the former judge and lawyer Mr Schillow is a well-known personality in the fight for hemp regulation. Thanks to him, as of 1996, legal industrial hemp is once again being grown in Germany.
Thankful for every moment
Günter says that he is happy and content. Since his serious accident, he sees many things differently, more calmly. He is thankful that he is still alive, because he only just survived in 2002.
“I won’t give up until cannabis is legal”
Günter’s activist heart is certainly beating as fast as ever. He cannot rest and keep going until the cannabis plant has regained its original significance.
…..It could have ended differently, but it didn’t. Sensi Seeds is fortunate to have had these great cannabis patients and activists visit them in Amsterdam. The company will continue to support him and other patients in the future.