published: 30.01.2013, 12:33 | updated: 30.01.2013 12:37:12
Prague - A bill enabling to use marijuana for medical purposes was passed by the Senate, the upper house of Czech parliament, today and can take effect after being signed by President Vaclav Klaus.
Hemp will become available on e-prescription in pharmacies later this year.
The upper house passed the bill by the votes of 67 of the 74 senators present.
Senators from the senior opposition Social Democratic Party (CSSD) pointed out that many patients would be unable to afford hemp unless its high price is at least partly covered from public health insurance.
Health insurers have been against it.
According to estimates, a patient could pay up to 10,000 crowns a month for hemp.
The average gross monthly wage in the Czech Republic is about 26,000 crowns.
The drug will continue to be much cheaper if bought illegally, the critics say.
Deputy Pavel Bem (Civic Democrats, ODS), one of the law´s authors, admitted that the bill would not probably made it through if it anchored the coverage of medical hemp´s price from health insurance.
The law "mainly means a big business," CSSD senator Alena Gajduskova said critically.
She said ways should be sought to prevent possible criminalisation of the patients who grow hemp for their private use and to enable "herbwomen" to grow and sell a limited amount of hemp.
The new law enables the use of marijuana to soften the symptoms of diseases such as cancer, the Parkinson disease, multiple sclerosis, psoriasis and atopic dermatitis.
The import and distribution of hemp will be supervised by the State Drug Control Institute (SUKL).
In a year the SUKL is to start issuing licences for domestic growers under strict conditions set by the new law.
For example, a condition for granting the licence is that Czech-made hemp be cheaper than imported hemp. As a result, the price of the medical hemp could fall by a half at least, Bem said.
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