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News 15 Oct 15

Croatia Legalises Marijuana for Medical Use

Croatia has become the first Balkan country to allow patients to legally buy and use marijuana products to treat serious illnesses, although so far none are available for doctors to prescribe.

Sven Milekic
BIRN
Zagreb

The purchase and use of marijuana for medical purposes became legal in Croatia on Thursday as the country became the first Balkan state to join the global trend towards softening legislation on the drug.

A medical committee set up by the health ministry decided in January this year that the state should proceed with its legalisation because it can be useful for treating some illnesses, according to what it said was “the latest scientific and medical knowledge”.

Doctors will be able to prescribe medicine, teas and ointment containing THC, the active element in cannabis, to their patients. Regulations permit each patient to receive up to 0.75 grammes of THC per month.

Currently there are no producers of medical marijuana or related products in Croatia, while no foreign companies that sell such products have shown any interest in entering the Croatian market.

The health ministry has insisted that it will ensure that all THC-based medicines prescribed by Croatian doctors will available to patients by allowing pharmaceutical wholesalers to import such products.

But Vjekoslava Amerl Sakic, a doctor specialising in family medicine, told Croatian newspaper 24 Sata that “up to four months could pass before the first marijuana-based products are available to patients”.

She explained that the ministry will decide which specific medicines are allowed “only when the first [THC-based] substance is imported and when our [Croatian health service] laboratories process it”.

She said that doctors also need to evaluate all the possible side-effects, dosages and conditions of use for THC products, which can only come after the lab research.

According to the recommendations from the medical committee, herbal products made from cannabis can be used as additional medicine for treating tumours, AIDS, multiple sclerosis and child epilepsy.

Although it is not scientifically proven that any of these products cure or limit the effects of these illnesses, it is believed that they ease symptoms when used alongside conventional treatment, the committee said.

But cannabis products should not be used by people who suffer from Parkinson’s Disease, ordinary epilepsy, depression or other psychiatric disorders, it warned.

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