Medical marijuana is now available – on prescription – in Polish pharmacies.
“Until now, we had a law that allowed for the use of medical marijuana, but we had no medicine. This is the beginning of a new era for patients,” said Dr Jerzy Jarosz, an anaesthesiologist and pain specialist at the Warsaw’s St Krzysztof Hospice.
Until now, patients have had to import their medication from abroad, which has been a complicated, expensive and time-consuming procedure.
“The law in Poland does not contain a closed list of medical conditions in which cannabis can be prescribed. We expect that about 60 per cent of products will go to patients with chronic pain, for example associated with cancer or migraines, and the rest to people with multiple sclerosis and epilepsy, amongst others,” said Samia al-Hameri, a pharmacist from Spectrum Cannabis, the Canadian company that supplies the country’s chemist shops.
Since there is no fixed list for the medical use of the substance in Polish law, there is a real fear that the drug could be abused, as doctors will arbitrarily decide when and who to prescribe it to.
“Expectations are enormous, but this therapy is only for a few patients. Only 15 per cent of my patients qualify for the use of this treatment, and only when other methods of treatment are ineffective,” added Dr Jarosz.
While the prescription can be issued by any doctor, a gram of medical marijuana is set to cost about 65 zloty and the medication will not be kept on site. Patients will need to file the prescription with a pharmacy which will order the substance from the wholesaler.
Another possible issue is that beyond the prescription, there is not currently any documentation in place for patients to prove that they have been prescribed the marijuana for medical purposes. If they are stopped by the police and found in possession, they may be in trouble.
“Perhaps the receipt from the pharmacy will be enough proof,” adds Dr Jarosz.