The Medical Marijuana Magazine


If marijuana has medical value, why isn't medically available in the Netherlands?

This question was raised most recently by Gabriel Nahas on the editorial page of The Wall Street Journal.

The short answer is that marijuana is medically available in the Netherlands. There are doctors who prescribe it without any hindrance from the government, and their patients can either grow their own or take their prescriptions to certain coffee shops and get their marijuana at a substantial discount. The most important point is that someone in the Netherlands who has a medical condition that responds to marijuana does not have to live in fear of being arrested, nor does the physician who discusses it with the patient and prescribes marijuana for medical use.

The longer answer is that a Dutch commission recently did a very brief overview of the subject of medical marijuana and decided that there was not sufficient evidence of the medical efficacy of marijuana to include it in the national health insurance so patients could be reimbursed for their purchasing marijuana.

While the results of this review were disappointing from the anti-prohibitionist perspective, the matter is far from settled. It may be hard to fathom, but Dutch doctors seem to know less than many American doctors about the medical uses of marijuana. If one wrongly thinks of the Dutch as being "pro-marijuana," then this ruling could be misunderstood, but the fact is that Dutch doctors are a very conservative bunch, as are the Dutch people in general. It is one thing to tolerate something, it is quite something else to have it reimbursed by the national health insurance.

In any case, the question before the Dutch doctors was not whether sick people should be arrested for using marijuana. If you were to ask a Dutch doctor that question, the reaction would be emphatically negative.