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Dutch government distributes cannabis
September 1, 2003 8:37 AM   Subscribe

Dutch government is distributing cannabis as a prescription painkiller to pharmacies to treat chronically ill patients. The Netherlands are the first country to supply the drug itself, in accordance with United Nations rules on narcotics. This Radio Netherlands article contains an interview with an American expatriate who is now a licensed supplier.
posted by prolific (26 comments total)

 
Good news indeed. The tale of Mr. Burton is also interesting, here's a little more background.
posted by spazzm at 9:01 AM on September 1, 2003


heh heh... you said chronic
posted by pekar wood at 9:33 AM on September 1, 2003


What a civilized sort of nation. Kudos to 'em.
posted by five fresh fish at 9:48 AM on September 1, 2003


couldn't chronically ill patients just go down to the local coffee shop for a spliff?
posted by carfilhiot at 10:01 AM on September 1, 2003


If they get it from a doctor it is probably covered by their national medical coverage.
posted by botono9 at 10:09 AM on September 1, 2003


This makes me recall the Economist's -- i'm sure I got the ideological faction wrong -- neo-liberal arguments in favour of legalising cannabis/illegal drugs (see archives, subscription required unfortunately).
posted by lunadust at 10:11 AM on September 1, 2003


If they get it from a doctor it is probably covered by their national medical coverage.

No, it isn't. Yet.
posted by ginz at 11:44 AM on September 1, 2003


Yeah, carfilhiot, they probably can just go down to the local coffee shop, but that's beside the point. Many people want to smoke it legally. The coffee shops, while "decriminalized" remain technically illegal. At least that's how I had it explained to me when I was there. It's an ambiguous area, probably rife with bribery. Many people rightfully want to get things above board and squared away so they can take their medicine (or have their fun) in peace and legality.
posted by squirrel at 12:22 PM on September 1, 2003


Anyone have any links to studies discussing the actual benefits of the stuff, mechanisms of action, side effects?

(Nope. Never tried it.)
posted by namespan at 12:45 PM on September 1, 2003


According to this article it will be covered by their national health insurance. If anything the Dutch deserve some respect for being one of the few nations in the world to see the difference between "soft" and "hard" drugs.

I'm also curious to know why they aren't just selling synthetic THC in pill form. Popping a pill sure beats all the effort of brewing a tea or using a vaporizer. Hmm, this site seems to address that question pretty well.
posted by skallas at 1:32 PM on September 1, 2003


Worth pointing out that, despite many people's misconceptions, the Dutch are quite a conservative bunch. However, they couple that with a straightforward & practical approach to their laws which tends to lead to rather smart solutions like this. Gezillig indeed.

Now 'scuse me while I take my medicine...

skallas: Without reading your link, it's about the synergy of all the cannabinoid & other compounds in the plant that aren't in pure THC or synthesised versions.
posted by i_cola at 2:53 PM on September 1, 2003


mmmm, synergy
posted by Eloquence at 3:23 PM on September 1, 2003


I think it would depend on how ill the patient is as to whether he or she could just go to a coffee shop. Some patients aren't mobile.

Then again, if the prescribed pot looks like the buds in the news photos, it might be an immobilizing factor.
posted by swerve at 4:31 PM on September 1, 2003



I'm also curious to know why they aren't just selling synthetic THC in pill form


They are -- even in the US.

What I've heard about it -- which I'll happily acknowledge is second-hand and from possibly biased sources (not that there are any un-biased sources on this issue) -- is that marijuana is generally preferable: it has a more immediate effect, and it's easier to regulate the dose. (If you're smoking a joint, you can stop when you've had enough; a pill gives you the full dose whether you need it or not.)

I've always found it odd that THC is apparently legal, but only if it's expensively generated in a lab; if it's something you can grow it for free in your backyard, it's evil and dangerous.
posted by ook at 6:00 PM on September 1, 2003


Here's some DEA doubletalk on why Marinol is legal but the cannabis isn't.

The article pretty much ignores vaporization, tea, brownies, etc.

Here's the real kicker from the link I posted ealier:

> Patients report monthly expense of $500 to $900 for Marinol prescriptions

Call me cynical, but with that kind of dough and the power of the pharmaceutical industry behind you, its no wonder its not a higher schedule drug. No wonder the dutch national healthplan won't cover Marinol.

From the DEA:
>There are four times the level of tar in a marijuana cigarette, for example, than in a tobacco cigarette

Yet how much raw smoke is ingested by the patient before the desired effect is achieved. You don't just sit down and smoke a cigarette-sized joint by yourself. Not that inhaling burnt particles is healthy for you, but the DEA page is more than a bit misleading.

Also, note the interesting discrepancy between the "extra" chemicals in cannabis being either helpful or hurtful depending on who you ask. Comparision chart here.
posted by skallas at 6:38 PM on September 1, 2003


namespan- Erowid.org has a very good, if somewhat technical Overview of the Endogenous Cannabinoid System (i.e., how medical marijuana works).
posted by LimePi at 8:24 PM on September 1, 2003


A friend of mine was doing 13 years in Federal Prison, without any chance of parole. With 5 years left to do they found out he had terminal cancer. Guess what our kinder, more gentle, compassionate government did for him: Chemo, Radiation, Painkillers? No, they gave him the boot. "Go home now, get on the Oregon Health Plan". Thank god we have Medical Marijuana! For the next six months some of the best of Humboldt County found it's way up here, and it helped. If putting people before dogmatic adherence to "law" makes you a Liberal, count me in. Good for the Dutch.
posted by Mack Twain at 9:04 PM on September 1, 2003


I suppose the ultimate cruel irony in that story would be that he was doing time for possession of marijuana in the first place...
posted by five fresh fish at 9:14 PM on September 1, 2003


fff: unfortunately yes...he was a hell of a grower.
posted by Mack Twain at 9:31 PM on September 1, 2003


oops -- missed your earlier marinol link, skallas, which said everything I did, only better. It always annoys me when people don't read the thread carefully enough before posting... so now I annoy me. Very confusing.
posted by ook at 6:31 AM on September 2, 2003


carfilhiot,

Yes they can go to the coffee shop and many do. They can also grow up to 5 plants themselves at home too.

squirrel,

for all intents and purposes, it is legal.

Exhibit A: You will not, under any circumstance whatsoever get arrested for simply smoking pot anywhere in the Netherlands.

Exhibit B: coffeeshops are taxed by local authorities, exhibit a license at the door and are very often visited by the police.

Exhibit C: As far as I can tell from many conversations with many coffeeshop owners, it is not rifed with bribery. It is in the interest of everyone to keep the deal as clean as possible. They make a lot of money for everyone, including the towns that dish out the licenses.

skallas,

A more important point that they make is if you are terribly ill, specially terminally ill, who gives a damn if you do smack (we'll get there), as long as it makes you feel better?

i_cola,

Conservative is a weird way to put it. I'd rather call it traditionalist, but traditionalist in a land that has always been (intellectually) open to ideas often persecuted elsewhere. In other words, even the most conservative Dutch will feel oddly proud of their pot laws (for one things, they work no worse and often better than more repressive ones). But at the end of the day, they are more interested in being Dutch than in smoking pot. They've come a long way *their* way and they simply do not want to give up their way of doing things. Because it works.
posted by magullo at 9:37 AM on September 2, 2003


Question: what has the media said about this event?

I've read the CBC News and Globe and Mail reports, and they were steadfastedly neutral in tone, with the G&M commenting that marijuana use among the Dutch is not expected to rise and, indeed, is far below rates in the USA.

How are the US papers treating it?
posted by five fresh fish at 2:22 PM on September 2, 2003


Judging by Google News, the US papers seem to be either ignoring it or running the AP story, which is pretty neutral in tone as well. (Possibly the same one you saw in the Probe & Flail?)

I sure hope people's health plans will be covering it, though, because 40-55 euros for five grams seems a little on the steep side, especially if you *need* to smoke it every day.
posted by arto at 2:49 PM on September 2, 2003


You don't just sit down and smoke a cigarette-sized joint by yourself.

What are you, my mom?
posted by Ignatius J. Reilly at 3:26 PM on September 2, 2003


>A more important point that they make is if you are terribly ill, specially terminally ill, who gives a damn if you do smack (we'll get there),

I'm afraid youre missing the point. Cannabis is not physically addictive like smack and its not just about its pain treatment attributes its also, if not more so, about its ability to stimulate the appetite. Many ill people simply don't feel hunger anymore and this will simply make them eat more.

See: Cannabis, Appetite, and Alzheimers
posted by skallas at 8:09 PM on September 2, 2003


Cannabis is not physically addictive like smack and its not just about its pain treatment attributes its also, if not more so, about its ability to stimulate the appetite.

But also to help contain nausea, tremors and a variety of other symptoms. Not just to bring on the munchies.

Anyway, I did miss the point. In fact, it is not like you will not get a shot (or tow) of morphine at a regular hospital if you are in lots of pain.

though, because 40-55 euros for five grams seems a little on the steep side

Pretty much coffee-shop prices. The local hydro (which is what they are now providing via pharmacies) is very potent. Those 5 grams could last over a week ... or just an afternoon.
posted by magullo at 3:29 AM on September 3, 2003


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