The Lower House of the Parliament of the Czech Republic, the Chamber of Deputies, has approved a bill that aims to liberalize the medical cannabis sector. The draft law, passed on June 2 and pending approval by the Senate and the President of the Republic, contemplates an increase in the number of licenses granted to private companies for the cultivation and production of medicinal cannabis, as well as for the export and commercialization of CBD extracts and other cannabis-derived products. It also includes an update of the computerized medical prescription system to facilitate patient access to prescription of cannabis-based medicines by specialist physicians, and a full opening for the legal marketing of hemp with less than 1% THC, since it would not be considered addictive or narcotic substance.
The Czech Republic is one of the first countries in the European Union to regulate access to medical cannabis. This was back in 2013, although cannabis-derived products took another five years to become accessible in the medical system, when home cultivation for medical purposes was legally allowed after submitting a national registration. Since 2015, medical cannabis was permitted exclusively for the treatment of cancer, Parkinson's disease, multiple sclerosis and psoriasis, and only fifty doctors had the permission to prescribe it to their patients. Also, these products could only be obtained from 41 registered pharmacies in the country, according to a report published by the European Monitoring Center for Drugs and Drug Addiction (EMCDDA). Two years later, the country expanded the requirements to access medical cannabis to treat chronic pain, nausea, loss of appetite in AIDS and cancer patients; also, to relieve spasms in patients with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), and reduce nervous tics in patients suffering from Tourette syndrome, according to another report published by the European Observatory for the Consumption and Cultivation of Cannabis (OECCC).
In 2020, a new legislation mandated that 90% of the cost of these cannabis-derived products should be financed by medical insurance companies, up to a maximum of 30 grams per month. This change in trend doubled the use of cannabis as a treatment in the first four months of 2021, when compared to the same period of the previous year, according to the cannabis sector analyst Prohibition Partners.
Moreover, during these first years, the supply of cannabis from the Belgian producer Bedrocan was monopolized by the Czech Alliance Healthcare s.r.o., the only company granted with a government license for its marketing, and Alliance Healthcare s.r.o, the only with a distribution license. The final approval of the proposed new law will allow diversifying medicinal cannabis products for the Czech market and is expected to lead to a price drop.
"Parliamentary approval of the bill is a major milestone for patients and advocates of medical cannabis in the Czech Republic," declares Pavel Kubu, executive director of the International Cannabis and Cannabinoid Institute (ICCI) when interviewed by Prohibition Partners. “We do have to remain realistic about the amount of work that needs to be done. This bill could do much to advance medical cannabis and hemp in the country, but much of this depends on the implementation of the laws, and groups like ICCI will be working hard with the government over the next coming months to see that the interests of patients and industry are honored. "
The Czech Republic's policy on cannabis has traditionally been open and not just for medicinal use. Since 2010, consumption and possession of hashish up to five grams or fifteen grams of weed is decriminalized, and it is so for home growing up to five plants per person. For larger amounts, jail sentences and fine payments are usually substituted for detox treatment programs as an alternative sentencing.