Croatia has become the first Balkan country to allow patients to legally buy and use marijuana products to treat serious illnesses.
The purchase and use of marijuana for medical purposes became legal in Croatia on October 15, 2015 as the country became the first Balkan state to join the global trend towards softening legislation on the drug.A medical committee set up by the health ministry decided in January this year that the state should proceed with its legalization because it can be useful for treating some illnesses, according to what it said was “the latest scientific and medical knowledge”.
Croatian media reported that no medicines containing THC — the active element in cannabis — have been registered in the country.
The health ministry has warned it remains illegal to grow marijuana at home and that medical marijuana can only be recommended by doctors. Doctors will be able to prescribe medicine, teas and ointment containing THC, the active element in cannabis, to their patients. The regulations provide that a patient can receive up to 0.75 grams of THC per month.
The decision to legalize the use of medical marijuana has followed a months-long campaign by supporters of the cause in EU’s newest member nation. Several other EU countries have also allowed some level of marijuana use.
The health ministry has insisted that it will ensure that all THC-based medicines prescribed by Croatian doctors will available to patients by allowing pharmaceutical wholesalers to import such products.
But Vjekoslava Amerl Sakic, a doctor specializing in family medicine, said “up to four months could pass before the first marijuana-based products are available to patients”.
She explained that the ministry will decide which specific medicines are allowed “only when the first [THC-based] substance is imported and when our [Croatian health service] laboratories process it”.
She said that doctors also need to evaluate all the possible side-effects, dosages and conditions of use for THC products, which can only come after the lab research.
According to the recommendations from the medical committee, products made from cannabis can be used as additional medicine for treating cancer, AIDS, multiple sclerosis and child epilepsy.
Although it is not scientifically proven that any of these products cure or limit the effects of these illnesses, it is believed that they ease symptoms when used alongside conventional treatment, the committee said.