Pubdate: Sat, 20 Oct 2001
Source: Independent  (UK)
Copyright: 2001 Independent Newspapers (UK) Ltd.
Author: Anthony Deutsch


In a country where marijuana is already cheaper than many medications, the 
Dutch government approved a bill yesterday that would allow pharmacists to 
supply cannabis on prescription.

Parliament was expected to vote in the next few months on the proposal to 
put medicinal marijuana on the national health care plan. If the bill is 
passed, the drugs would be quality-tested by a government agency before 
being issued.

Although the sale of marijuana is technically illegal, Dutch authorities 
tolerate the sale of small amounts in hundreds of so-called "coffee shops" 
that operate openly.

There, a gram of marijuana costs about 10 guilders (UKP 2.80). Under the 
new law, most users would have the cost of their spliffs paid by the Dutch 
government if a doctor prescribed cannabis.

The draft legislation was proposed by Els Borst, the Health Minister, who 
pushed through the euthanasia law this year, saying it was better to 
regulate the existing widespread practice of mercy killing.

This time, a government statement said: "An increasing number of patients 
suffering illnesses such as cancer, Aids and multiple sclerosis receive 
medicinal cannabis." The law, it said, was needed to remove an 
"undesirable" contradiction between practice and law "despite lack of 
scientific evidence" of the effects of marijuana use.

Many patients using the drug without professional assistance had had 
successful results, it said. "Experiences are positive: less pain, less 
nausea after chemotherapy, less stiffness with MS," the statement added. 
The government cited legal medicinal use of cannabis in 19 American states 
and Canada and said many European states were considering following suit.

Prescription cannabis will be of "pharmaceutical quality" grown to 
government guidelines. The Netherlands is known to produces some of the 
world's most potent cannabis.
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