Legal Since the use of cannabis as medication for and by patients was legalised in Germany by the taking of legal action, people in possession of a “Certificate of Exemption for Self-Treatment with Medicinal Hemp Buds whilst under Medical Supervision” shouldn't actually need to worry any more about having trouble with the law due to this otherwise prohibited plant. However...
Because entirely different regulations apply to cannabis than to traditional drugs, even legal cannabis patients could soon become criminals. What’s more, they only have to violate one of the many absurd regulations laid down for handling medicinal hemp buds in order to be prosecuted. Not all of the following infractions are prohibited with medicinal cannabis in other countries, but most of these restrictions also apply to Canadian, Dutch or Czech cannabis patients.
Growing one or even more cannabis plants yourself
With the exception of Canada, so far no countries with a medicinal cannabis program have succeeded in officially licencing cultivation of their own drugs to complement the expensive regular care of patients, but are instead at best tolerating measures such as the five plants per person allowed in the Czech Republic. Because health insurance companies in any country of the world hardly ever cover the costs of medicinal cannabis, satisfactory care with medicinal hemp buds is often a question of the individual’s bank balance. But it shouldn’t be. One gram of pharmacy cannabis costs 15 euros, and one gram of self-grown medicine costs around a tenth of this amount.
In Germany recently, a patient received a suspended three-year prison sentence for possessing 65 gram of cannabis buds that he had cultivated himself. Had the same herb come from the pharmacy, it would in fact have been legal, but subject to a considerable fine.
Sharing a joint or a bud with other patients
This would constitute distribution of narcotics and therefore grounds for a preliminary investigation and revocation of the certificate of exemption. Patients are obviously forbidden from passing their joint to recreational users, but even between themselves it’s strictly prohibited. If a patient has left his medication at home, he isn’t allowed to consume any other cannabis, even if it’s legal, but rather he must take his container home again to fetch his medication from the safe.
Simply throwing away rotten cannabis
If you have any cannabis left over, because your treatment has ended or you are unable to use it all up by the expiry date, it can’t simply be passed on to needy patients or thrown away. Everything should be recorded accurately and sent to the Federal Institute for Drugs and Medical Devices. In Canada, that works in a rather more pragmatic way. Health Canada, the responsible authority, has recommended mixing cannabis residues with water plus cat litter, so that it can be disposed of in its entirety in the household waste. So cannabis can’t be benefited from without doing things by the book.
Having children around
The Federal Institute for Drugs and Medical Devices instructs patients in possession of certificates of exemption not to consume cannabis in front of children. In fact, patients who are just happen to be parents have to make sure that their offspring don’t inhale cannabis passively. However, “not in front of children” also means that when a patient consumes their medicine, they have to let their children out of their sight. Fathers or mothers in possession of certificates of exemption are thus forced to neglect their duty of supervision on a regular basis, so as not to conflict with the Federal Opium Agency’s prescriptions. Or they have to fulfil their duty of supervision without meeting the regulations for cannabis patients.
Driving a car
This is a chapter in itself, because shortly after receiving their certificate of exemption, many cannabis patients need to visit the driving licence agency to have their ability to drive tested. And much more stringent criteria apply to cannabis than to other narcotics such as valium or opioids. So far, many driving licence agencies don’t accept patients who use buds, due to the “inability to provide an exact dosage”, and demand a conversion to ready-to-use preparations. If you still drive regardless, you will soon be deemed to be driving under the influence of drugs, and you will once again risk committing a criminal offence.
Buying legally abroad
If a patient travels to the Netherlands, Colorado, Spain or Canada, he can actually buy legal or at least tolerated cannabis in these countries. But even that is theoretically a criminal offence and can lead to a preliminary investigation in the patient’s home country. A criminal offence committed abroad can also be prosecuted and punished in Germany. But no-one has been punished for purchasing cannabis in a coffee shop in Germany for a long time, unless the object of desire wasn’t destroyed, or was found during an attempt to import it, as was the case in 2010 with a cannabis patient from Duisburg. This patient’s pharmacy wasn’t able to supply any legal cannabis, and the medically essential trip to Holland ended in charges being pressed against the patient for having five grams of cannabis in his detention cell.
Buying illegally in Germany
On the German black market, one gram of weed costs between seven and ten euros north of the river Main, whereas in the south of the country, it’s a little more expensive. Patients who are unable to afford pharmacy prices have to turn to the black market. If you’re caught with buds that don’t come from the pharmacy, you will receive the same punishment as a patient who grows cannabis himself. However, the person concerned is also sometimes awarded a “justified state of emergency”, i.e. a type of second-class acquittal, which protects him from receiving a penalty, but not from his medication from being seized. Robert Strauß, who died in 2015, shortly after the most recent oppressive measure, was downright bullied by the Augsburg police (Bavaria) and charges were pressed time and time again.
Medicinal cannabis and work
Many employers now require proof of abstinence. As a cannabis patient, you either need to sort this out prior to the test, confess to being a cannabis patient or justify your consumption once you have taken the test. Medicinal consumption often leads to termination of employment contracts too. In the past year, one patient successfully fought against job loss and forced the training provider to continue the training. The trainee had to be given an extra room to smoke in. After the verdict, both sides decided to part ways amicably. The new trainer doesn’t have a problem with the consumption of medicinal cannabis whilst at work.
Taking it abroad with you
Some patients smuggle medication completely illegally with them on holiday and, depending on their holiday destination, risk a fine or even a hefty prison sentence. Others are lucky and obtain a Schengen form to “take narcotics with them within the EU” from the Regional Office for Social Provision responsible. Unfortunately, the numerous state health authorities in Germany are yet to have a clear line on this. It currently depends a little on where you live in Germany as to whether you are a legal patient or an illegal drug smuggler when travelling.
Smoking in the wrong place
Regulations now exist throughout most of Germany that specify that cannabis patients must also be able to consume cannabis outside of their own four walls. As a rule, wherever cigarettes can be smoked, cannabis patients should also be able to take their medication — but not near schools or nursery schools, not “ostentatiously” and not in front of minors. But not all police officers are familiar with these regulations, and in Bavaria, there still aren’t any. Patients who violate these regulations, or even those who abide by them, often face dismissal. Some then even go on to receive a letter from the Federal Institute for Drugs and Medical Devices, which will arrange for their certificate of exemption to be revoked in the event of a repeat offence.
Further processing of cannabis
Further processing is also strictly prohibited. A tea infusion is still permitted, but this is stated anyway on the certificate of exemption in most cases. With biscuits, the legal position is no longer very clear, but extraction of the buds is definitely not permitted. Regardless of whether hashish, wax or oil is to be extracted, only laboratories are allowed to do so for medicinal purposes. They currently charge patients 400 euros to extract a five-gram container of Bedrocan cannabis, plus the price of the buds. That makes 480 euros for a gram of legal extract. If you produce it yourself at a lower cost, you are committing a criminal offence.
Summary: In Germany, the fear of cannabis is so great that chronically ill patients are paying the price in the form of entirely nonsensical regulations. This discrepancy can only be resolved if cannabis is also regulated for recreational purposes. That will guard against substance misuse as well as misuse of the patient status more effectively than the numerous, barely comprehensible regulations do, which will only serve to ensure that cannabis will remain a second or third-choice medicine that is unattainable for many.