Industrial hemp could soon contain a higher level of active substances, and getting a license to grow medical cannabis will become much easier if an amendment approved by Czech Parliament is signed into law.The Chamber of Deputies, the lower house of Czech Parliament, again approved an amendment aimed at improving the availability of medical marijuana and enabling electronic prescriptions. The lower house rejected a Senate proposal to maintain the current level of THC in the definition of industrial hemp and rejected the Senate’s tougher version of certification requirements.
Industrial hemp is cannabis intended for making a variety of products such as cloth, biofuel, and animal feed. It can also be used for some medical preparations.
The original version of the bill will now be submitted to President Miloš Zeman for his signature. If he approves the amendment, it will take effect on Jan. 1, 2022The approved amendment would more than triple the amount of THC in industrial hemp to 1 percent.
According to some senators, increasing the THC content would contravene the international drug convention and would also affect criminal law concerning possession of a classified substance. For this reason, the Senate wanted to maintain the THC content limit for technical hemp to 0.3 percent. However, deputies in the lower house disagreed with the Senate.
The Czech Pirate party was one of the main supporters of the amendment in the lower house.
“This is a package of pragmatic measures, free from dogmatism and stereotyping, which are unfortunately still fundamental obstacles for Czech policy in the field of addictive behavior,” Pirate Deputy Tomáš Vymazal, who supported the proposal, stated on the party website.
He said that growers will not have to worry about criminalization due to nice weather and other growing conditions, as the THC level in the final product cannot be predicted in advance.
“Farmers growing varieties of industrial hemp from the common European catalog will not have to prove the THC content of hemp plants – they will only submit a certificate of origin,” Pirate Deputy Tomáš Vymazal stated on the party website.
The daft of the amendment sent to the president also states that hemp extracts and tinctures containing up to 1 percent THC will not be regarded as an addictive substance.
“All cannabis extracts that have a THC content of up to 1 percent by weight and which at the same time do not have narcotic effects will be completely exempted from the substance abuse regime,” Vymazal stated.
“This means that, for example, an ointment made from a non-narcotic variety of cannabis will no longer be an addictive substance, although it contains THC and although the original cannabis plant may have exceeded 1 percent THC. Due to the dilution of the active substances during the production of the ointment, an extract is created, which will not be an addictive substance in the sense of the law,” he added.
The main change in the amendment is that private entities will be able to grow cannabis plants for medicinal use, produce medicinal substances from them, and distribute them under the same conditions as any other controlled substance.
Medicinal cannabis is used, for example, for chronic pain for that other medicines cannot help. It is prescribed by specialized doctors for people with multiple sclerosis, cancer, and AIDS.
The Health Ministry previously said it hopes this change will increase competition and reduce the price of medicinal products containing cannabis, which are 90 percent covered by public health insurance. Currently, the State Institute for Drug Control (SÚKL) buys the needed volume of cannabis from a selected supplier on the basis of a tender.
Vymazal said that due to more suppliers, a wider range of medical cannabis, with different dosage levels, would become available for patients.
The Senate also unsuccessfully pushed for medical cannabis growers to be required to have a certificate of good manufacturing practice for medicinal substances under the Medicines Act, which is issued by SÚKL. Under the lower house version, a declaration of compliance with the conditions of good cultivation practice would be sufficient.
“Due to financially and administratively more accessible licenses, even normal entrepreneurs will be given the opportunity to participate in the production of cannabis for medical use,” Vymazal said.
The amendment also gives SÚKL the right to block websites offering illegal and counterfeit medicines.
The use of medical cannabis has been on the rise. According to a report from January, In 2020, patients were given a total of 66.8 kilograms of medical marijuana, while in 2019 the figure was 17 kilograms.
Czech law has allowed prescribing medical cannabis since 2013. At first there was no legal supplier, so it did not become available until two years later. Initially, it was only available from abroad, and according to patients it was too expensive.