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CDC HIV/AIDS/Viral Hepatitis/STD/TB Prevention News Update
Marijuana Prescription Law OK'd
Anthony Deutsch
October 22, 2001
Newsday (New York) (10.19.01) - Monday, October 22, 2001

The Dutch Cabinet on Friday approved a bill to allow Netherlands' pharmacies to fill prescriptions, paid for by the government, for marijuana. "An increasing number of patients suffering illnesses such as cancer, AIDS and multiple sclerosis receive medicinal cannabis," said a statement released by the government. Many patients using the drug without professional assistance have had successful results, it said. "Experiences are positive: less pain, less nausea after chemotherapy, less stiffness with MS," the statement said.

The Dutch Parliament is expected, in the next few months, to vote on the proposal to put medicinal marijuana on the national health plan. If the bill is passed by the 150-member legislature, pharmacies would be supplied with "pharmaceutical quality" marijuana after testing by a government agency. Although the sale of marijuana is technically illegal, Dutch authorities tolerate the sale of small amounts in hundreds of so-called coffee shops that operate openly. Under the new law, most users would have their marijuana paid for by the government as long as it is prescribed by a doctor. The prescription marijuana would be grown according to government guidelines.

Although several countries tolerate marijuana use by patients, only Canada licenses them to legally grow and possess it, according to a spokesperson for the Washington-based National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws. The Canadian government is also growing marijuana and plans to create a government-run system to distribute it. Nine US states have laws exempting medical users from prosecution under state laws, but patients may still be arrested under federal laws.

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