Brain and Body

Germany Is Heading Towards Legalizing Marijuana for Medical Use in 2017

May 9, 2016 | Kelly Tatera

Marijuana indica leaves
Photo credit: Dank Depot/flickr (CC by SA 2.0)

Another country joins the wave.

As confirmed by Germany’s health minister earlier this week, the German cabinet has officially approved the legalization of cannabis for medicinal purposes. An exact date for the law to go into effect has not yet been set, but government officials say they expect it to become a reality by this time next year.

The new bill is intended to help patients who suffer from chronic pain, but have been let down by other treatment options, and where “no therapeutic alternative” is available, Joshua Berlinger at CNN reports.

"Our goal is that seriously ill people are looked after to the best of our ability," Federal Health Minister Hermann Gröhe said.

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THC, the active ingredient in marijuana, helps numb feelings of pain by binding to cannabinoid receptors in the brain. Marijuana is also known to bring about changes in mood and appetite, and because of its health benefits for those with certain medical conditions, the drug is increasingly being approved for medical purposes around the world.

Australia recently legalized medical marijuana, and Canada recently announced its plan to introduce legislation to decriminalize and regulate recreational marijuana marijuana in the spring of next year. Several states in the US have legalized marijuana for medicinal use, like New York, California, and Vermont, and four states took it a step further and legalized the drug for recreational purposes — Alaska, Colorado, Oregon, and Washington. However, marijuana still remains illegal on a federal level.

Although Germany is pushing to add itself to the growing list of countries that support medical marijuana, the country cautions that the drug shouldn’t be considered completely safe for all purposes.

"The use of cannabis as a medicine within narrow limits is useful and should be explored in more detail," said Marlene Mortler, the country’s federal drug commissioner. "At the same time, cannabis is not a harmless substance, a legalization for private pleasure is not the aim and purpose of this. It is intended for medical use only."

Though the bill has already been approved by the German cabinet, the legislation still needs parliamentary approval before becoming a reality. 

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Editor's Note (May 10): The title of this article and a concluding sentence have been updated to clarify that Germany's medical marijuana legislation still needs parliamentary approval before becoming official. We had previously stated that the legalization of medical marijuana was officially set for 2017, and we apologize for any confusion that may have caused. 

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