Marguerite Arnold   |   April 30, 2018

What Does The Average German Cannabis Patient Look Like?

Part II of II: One of the biggest reasons that integration of cannabis is not going smoothly in Germany (besides an outrageous price still driven by supply chain inefficiencies, bureaucracy, and imports). MS is the only on-label condition that more or less automatically gets insurance coverage for cannabis. Everyone else has to rely on their doctor’s ability to persuade insurers to cover a stigmatized, trial-to-mainstreaming drug for conditions that range from ADD to cancer.
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…

The average chronically ill person who would more or less most easily qualify for the drug at the moment also fits another profile. They live on about $600 cash a month, perhaps a little more with a part-time job, with all housing, transportation, and healthcare paid for, supposedly, inclusively. It certainly can be. Chronically ill patients (in a land that worships the car and has one of the best public transportation systems in the world), can obtain free taxi service to their local doctor and Apotheke if they qualify (in a non Uber cab).

But in this scenario also lies the fundamental difference to the entire cannabis if not insurance question. For starters, German healthcare is still largely incredibly inclusive. It was designed to be that way. The abhorrence of an American-style healthcare system has been the only thing Germans have consistently found distasteful about the U.S. before Donald Trump took up residence in the White House.

Whether it is cannabis or any other medication, Germans fundamentally believe that sick people should have access to the drugs and care they need. Now that conversation includes cannabis, the great normalization has begun.

As a result, the contortions of the average German patient over access to cannabis are also something that Germans find fundamentally disturbing. This is a deeply conservative country, although that moniker means something a bit different auf Deutsch than to American definitions. It means a country that upholds traditions. So while kinder, kuche and Kirche (children, the kitchen, and church) are still the three central organizers of German life, it also means a society that worships green energy, created Birkenstocks, and has saunas in big commercial shopping malls where patrons all sweat in their birthday suits (men and women together). Stamp “bio” on a product, and it will win you instant fans. And there are more windmills and solar panels here, in concentration, than any other country except China.

Where that intersects with a natural medication you can grow in your garden that will also cure if not alleviate some of the most chronic conditions left untreatable by other meds, this evokes an almost evangelical response in the average German.

There is a reason some of the most committed (and "conservative”) cannabis reform activists hail from Bavaria. If German law says that patients should get their meds for $12 (and can’t, and further face huge hassle to get them, or arrest for using them, there is something deeply rotten auf Deutschland. And that is a powerful narrative that feeds into the current zeitgeist of the German psyche. As a result, it has also created an army of not only unbelievably sick, human pretzels who march and roll on the streets in protest over access (plus, this being Germany, their paid caregivers by their side), but quite normal looking people joining in, determined to fix the situation. That is an incredibly German thing to do. Especially if there is a connection to health care access issues and human rights.

When it comes to cannabis, that is an easy connection.


Decrim Is On The Horizon

That now includes those who make and enforce the country’s drug laws. The head of the country’s largest police union just went on record calling for cannabis to be decriminalized here. For the most part, that is an administrative fix to the way things are moving anyway. The police, with notable exceptions, are treading even more carefully on an issue which is potential political dynamite here. After all, they and their families could easily now become cannabis patients.

Beyond the police, however, the distaste for the legal purgatory facing patients has already entered the judicial class. Andreas Müller is a well-known advocacy judge here who knows well what drug laws can do to a family. He has published a book called “Kiffen und Kriminalität” (only still available in German) about his battles, as a judge and brother, with the country’s cannabis laws when applied at close quarters. Kiffen is German slang for pot. Müller is currently touring the country on an extended book tour which is absolutely at the forefront of civic discussion here.

What this also means is unbelievably exciting to those who are battling for greater access and reform just about everywhere, particularly on the medical side.

Because for all the paperwork and rules, and hassles, the German market is moving forward, and firmly on the medical side. The law and the rules have changed. That means there will be more formal research, trials, and testing. In fact, Germany is likely to become the next great competitor on the cannatech front to Israel.

There is no other country right now where medical cannabis is being mainstreamed into a public health system which serves the vast majority of any national population. That includes Canada.

This means that however slow and pondering it may seem to outsiders, the German cannabis experiment will have a fundamental and far-reaching impact on the medical debate far from its borders.

For patients in every country, struggling against a tide which would rather treat cannabis like beer than aspirin, that is a clarion call of hope.

Further, because of the decidedly medical nature of this revolution, it is also less commercial on the ground still. Sure the big Canadian LPs cannot grow enough and in the process, their market caps have soared into the company of big international pharma. But around the edges, a very interesting German revolution is taking root. And one that will, inevitably, begin to seep, in the form of real, hard, widespread medical evidence, into reform movements globally.

The science that is already being conducted here will mandate that – and such endeavors are still in their infancy. The laws are already changing to accommodate that. And the people are leading the movement, from the streets, and from the courtrooms of a country that is now defining itself in a new world where cannabis is not the only revolution simmering.


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