The Swiss government is working on making it a lot easier for patients to get medical marijuana and are now proposing to allow prescriptions for cannabis to patients suffering from cancer or other serious health conditions.
The proposal is different from a Swiss government push to allow some cities to experiment with recreational marijuana and would replace the current system, in which those seeking medical cannabis must apply for an exception from the Federal Health Office to get what is otherwise considered an illegal drug.
Marijuana is sometimes used to help cancer patients manage chronic pain, to help boost their appetites, and to reduce spasticity associated with multiple sclerosis.
"The proposal makes it possible for doctors to directly prescribe cannabis as part of their treatment," the Swiss cabinet said in an official statement.
"Growing and processing medical cannabis as well as its sale would then be possible under a system regulated" by Swissmedic, the country's drug regulatory agency.
A formal comment period runs until mid-October this year.
Just how insurance companies will handle reimbursement for medical marijuana will be dealt with separately, the government said.
"The biggest obstacle to automatic reimbursement is that the scientific evidence of efficacy is not yet sufficient and the conclusions of existing studies are sometimes contradictory," the government said.
The Federal Health Office will launch an evaluation project to help answer questions about whether marijuana is an effective remedy and, if so, for what conditions, it said.
Switzerland cited increased use of medical marijuana in the procedures of a variety of conditions as driving its initiative. Federal authorities granted around 3,000 exceptions in 2018 for people seeking to get medical marijuana.
Separately, Switzerland is tinkering with laws that now forbid recreational marijuana, a potential precursor to joining other countries and an increasing number of U.S. states are legalising the drug.
A plan released in February could let up to 5,000 people smoke marijuana in pilot studies.
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