Justice

Germany Plans to Legalize Medical Marijuana Next Year

Germany plans to legalize medical marijuana in 2017, the country's health minister said on Wednesday.

Sativa

Patients suffering from serious illnesses will be able to access cannabis, which will be covered by health insurance companies, if they've consulted with a doctor and "have no therapeutic alternative," the German Health Ministry said in a statement.

"Our aim is that seriously ill people are looked after to the best of our ability," German Health Minister Hermann Gröhe said.

Germany's federal drug commissioner Marlene Mortler said "the use of cannabis as a medicine within narrow limits is useful and should be explored in more detail" but cautioned that "cannabis is not a harmless substance" so it shouldn't be legalized for recreational purposes.

Germany currently has a restrictive medical marijuana system.

As it stands today, patients seeking treatment with medical marijuana must go through a rigorous application process in order to obtain the plant, and they must pay for it out of pocket. Government records indicate that only 647 people have been granted medical marijuana access in the country as of April, Deutsche Welle, a German media company, reports.

marijuana

Next year, the country's medical marijuana system will look more like what we've seen in the U.S. in states that have legalized medical marijuana. But because marijuana is federally illegal in the U.S., it is ineligible for health insurance coverage; all medical marijuana patients must pay for the medicine out of pocket in America.

The announcement from Germany on Wednesday reflects an international movement to legalize marijuana, either for medical or recreational purposes. Twenty four states in the U.S. have legalized cannabis in some form, and there are also plans in Canada, Australia, and Mexico to reform marijuana laws in 2017, as ATTN: has previously reported.

RELATED: Canada Announces Plans for Legalization on 4/20