Marguerite Arnold   |   April 24, 2018

The Awakening Of The German Cannabis Market

Part I of II: It is not news anymore in the United States that the cannabis reform that kicked up the conversation at the state level just four years ago has now gone global. Canada’s recreational market which will begin this summer, nationally, has already demonstrated that what started in the U.S. states (if not Holland before that) is now a world-wide movement if not legit industry.
Marguerite Arnold is an American expat who is also the first in her 900-year-old Jewish family to return to Germany to live since the Holocaust. She has covered the global cannabis industry and movement as a journalist since 2014 from…

Last year, Germany entered the list of medical cannabis countries, which in turn has begun to open up Europe. But as North Americans (both those from the U.S. and Canada) are learning, the European market bears little resemblance to what is happening anywhere else at the moment. Even in other medical markets.

That is even truer in Germany.

There are cultural differences. There are market differences. And they are coming together in a unique way to create a new kind of movement that will also have its own, overdue influence, globally. This new kind of discussion will be had for the benefit of science, medical advancement, and patients everywhere if not those who support and serve if not take care of them. And it will have a distinctive Teutonic twang.

 

This Is Federal Medical Reform

No matter how great the news that Trump is at odds with Jeff Sessions’ new war on state pot markets, American reform is still doddering in a lack of federal reform. With that, comes banking and of course health insurance. And no matter how exciting the Canadian recreational market is, the reality is that medical users, also known as insured patients in Germany, will consume greater amounts of cannabis per month on a regular basis than the average recreational user just about anywhere.

Even better news for an industry that is flocking here from all over the planet? In theory at least, when Germans become medical cannabinoid users, they will pay a lot less for it than any other kind of user anywhere else. Why? German public health insurance picks up the tab. Public health insurance in Germany covers 90% of the population and costs about $250 per month. The model, in theory also says that when a person gets sick they should be able to go to any doctor, get a prescription for whatever they need and pick it up at the local pharmacy (Apotheke) for about $12.

As of March 2017 that also applies to GMP certified cannabis. Up to 5 oz. of it a month. Which can be bought at regular pharmacies.

Despite all the administrative hurdles (and they are high) and multiple battles for access (because theory is not yet practice) there are already approximately 30,000 German patients as of April 2018, 15,000 of whom have covered claims at this point (up from a mere 1,000 people able to get prescriptions as of last March).  While that 15k number is a victory, the other half is still paying about $3,000 per month out of pocket and hoping that their insurer will approve their claims. Or suing when that does not happen soon enough. Only 60% of those who have submitted claims so far have been successful in being reimbursed.

But one thing is very clear. Germans are taking to cannabis reform. And this green genie is not only out of the bottle, but appearing in all forms – flower, oil, concentrates and other things. Including of the non-medical kind. The German government is currently offering tax incentives for the growth of certain kinds of hemp. Cannabis-related sex aids are already popular items. And remember, prostitution is absolutely legal in Germany. For both sexes. This is not a prudish discussion here.

On any level.

MedPayRX at Diamunich Digital Insurance Agenda Conference

And that includes access for Germans who have conditions that are still off the map of effective treatment. Like epilepsy. The German government, in fact, has targetted epilepsy as a focus within the public health sector. Why? The social services sector will pick up the tab for the chronically ill. No more chronically ill, no more tab. The difference between both the individual and the state, just in this one situation of disease management, will be massive, and life-changing. Not to mention save at least $3,000 per month, per individual, for the rest of their lives. That is a bill that ultimately remits to the German taxpayer.

If there is a common sense fix, even and especially if it can be derived from a plant, this is the kind of thing that will make sense to even the most stereotypical, paper-obsessed, bureaucratic bean counters.

And sooner rather than later, just because of the economics of the situation. The population that will be served by cannabis is not only greying. It is not hospital based.

That discussion is being had by those who make the rules. And in this country, the rules say that this is a discussion that now must be had. In March last year, German law changed to say that cannabis is now a legal drug, even of last resort, whose use, when prescribed by a doctor, must be covered under German public health insurance.

Finally, cannabis is (almost) a mainstreamed, regular drug, just like many, many others.

 

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