On 8 July 2014, five German patients submitted a case to the Cologne Administrative Court regarding growing their own cannabis. The verdict of the proceedings is not expected until 22 July 2014, so we will need to have a little more patience. The five patients, who suffer from chronic pain, ADHS, Tourette’s syndrome and post-traumatic stress disorder all have permits to purchase cannabis from the pharmacy However, as it is so very expensive, the patients felt they had no choice but to go to court to demand their right to grow their own.
On 8 July 2014, five German patients submitted a case to the Cologne Administrative Court regarding growing their own cannabis. The verdict of the proceedings is not expected until 22 July 2014, so we will need to have a little more patience.
The five patients, who suffer from chronic pain, ADHS, Tourette’s syndrome and post-traumatic stress disorder all have permits to purchase cannabis from the pharmacy However, as it is so very expensive, the patients felt they had no choice but to go to court to demand their right to grow their own.
Although Magistrate Andreas Fleischfresser said that, generally speaking, the state must not deny the chronically sick access to cannabis if the plant is the only medicine that helps, no judgement has been passed yet. The magistrate agreed that the circumstances and treatment methods to which the patients are subjected are degrading. It is beyond dispute that patients who cannot afford expensive pharmacy cannabis do not have any other option than growing their own. The German state institute for medicine (Budensinstitut für Arzneimittel und Medizinprodukte, BfArM) disagrees on the basis that there are grounds for refusal. The institute refers to the SCND (Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs) and claims that the reputation of the Federal Republic of Germany is at risk. Furthermore, it claims that patients would not be able to guarantee secure cultivation and it would present a risk for illegal trade.
Dr. Franjo Grotenhermen, physician and Chairman of the medicinal cannabis collaboration Arbeitsgemeinschaft Cannabis Medizin (ACM), commented,
This nonsense must stop. It is high time that the German Federal Opium Authority, the Bundesopiumstelle, makes the move, or be forced to do so by court order, to honour requests from patients to grow their own cannabis, so that they have access to medicinal care without risking criminal penalties. The ACM will use all the resources currently at its disposal to support the patients who are currently still at risk of persecution to ensure that all four can walk free on the basis of justified exceptional circumstances. As long as the politicians and the courts do not offer them a legal, affordable option in the form of a ruling from the Bundesverwaltungsgericht, the highest German administrative court, what other alternative do patients have who – in the opinion of the Bundesopiumstelle – need cannabis treatment but cannot afford to buy it from the pharmacy, than the cheap, albeit illegal, solution?”
ADHS and chronic pain – the Ralf H. case
In the eyes of society, whether it be the police or the court, you will always be treated like a criminal and an addict.”
One of the patients, who appeared in court on 8 July 2014, is Ralf H., a cannabis patient from Heidelberg. Cannabis medicine contributes to the daily treatment of his symptoms and gives him back his life, without the negative side effects he experiences with pills. The THC in his medicine reduces the symptoms of ADHS and chronic pain.
During his case, the specifics where discussed of how many plants would in theory need to be grown in order to provide 100g each month of dry cannabis, the only medicine that helps him. Taking into account various factors, the answer was 26.
On the postponement of the verdict on 8 July, he comments,
We are being put off again and it could take years before we are ultimately successful.”
After the hearing, Ralf spoke about his situation in an interview with TV channel RTL West.
MS patient Michael F.
His years of fighting the disease will be a story familiar to many; his trial in Cologne isn’t the only one going on at the moment. ACM reported in June 2014 that in the claim by Michael F., a patient suffering from MS, the High Administrative Court in Münster referred back to an earlier judgement from December 2012, which also concerned grow-your-own cannabis and, in principle, supported the patient. Sensi Seeds also reported on that case and unfortunately, the final judgement has not been given on this case either.
Revoked driving licence
The court hearing of 8 July 2014 wasn’t Ralf H.’s only one this year. An IT professional, he appeared before the court in connection with his medicine again on 17 July 2014 because he had been told he had to hand in his driving licence, which he urgently needed for his work.
Once the authorities had finally been convinced that Ralf truly was a patient, and could drive safely and without a problem, he was given back his driving licence, which had previously been revoked. Ralf’s employer also knows that he uses cannabis.
For three years now, Ralf has been strictly monitored, has had to allow repeated urine tests to be taken and wait for approval from the doctors, despite the fact that it was determined long ago that he was fit to drive both with and without medicine.
During a client visit, Ralf was pulled over in a routine traffic check. The police officer asked if he had ever been involved with the police. Ralf said yes. As a result his ID card, driving licence and medicinal cannabis permit were all revoked and the whole business with the authorities opened up all over again, forcing him to defend himself anew. When Ralf voluntarily allowed blood to be drawn, the police found 54ng of THC in his blood, which Ralf did not dispute. In the eyes of the guardians of the law, he committed an offence that should be punished with a fine of €960, four points on his licence and a one-month driving ban.
Article 24 of the German Road Traffic Act
Article 24 of the German Road Traffic Act (Straßenverkehrsgesetz) states:
This sentence applies to Ralf’s case! The THC in the intoxicating substance referred to in this paragraph is Ralf’s medicine, which he has the right to consume.
This doesn’t necessarily help in reality, however, because this sentence in paragraph 24 first has to be accepted and then applied in practice. For many cannabis patients, their driving licence being revoked has now become a greater threat than criminal persecution. We will have to wait and see how this case will unfold.
An expensive fight
It has become an issue of dignity. How can anyone keep up these proceedings for years and pay for them all? For Ralf there is however a silver lining to the cloud. Just as the case of Michael F. before the Higher Administrative Court in Münster, his case before the Administrative Court in Cologne will be guided and financed by ACM as a trial process. Let’s hope that these proceedings will rewrite history, so that many more patients can be helped in the future.
The patients have to find their own financing for other legal proceedings however, such as for Ralf’s driving licence, which continue to pop up. Not only do they carry a huge price tag, they are also detrimental to the victims’ health. Time and time again, survival hangs from a thin thread, and the patients have to pull themselves out of a crisis all over again – as though the illness wasn’t enough in and of itself.
How much longer will this continue?
When you hear these patients’ stories, all kinds of questions come to mind. How much longer are these (cannabis) patients in Germany going to be put through hell? For how much longer will they be treated and persecuted like criminals or potential criminals? For how many more years must aggressive pharmaceutical products be administered before patients are granted access to their natural medicine?
Having to live with your illness and the limitations it brings with it is one thing; laws that make your life even harder are quite another. Fear, ignorance, oppression and criminalisation help NOBODY!
Sensi Seeds will be keeping its ear to the ground.