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Medicinal cannabis project in doubt March 18, 2005 expatica.com
AMSTERDAM — Health Minister Han Hoogervorst is considering abandoning the legal sale of medicinal cannabis, claiming that it is bizarre that the government is involved in the production and sale of "State weed".
The government-regulated supply of medicinal cannabis on prescription to chronic pain suffers such as MS and cancer patients has also descended into a financial chaos, newspaper De Volkskrant reported.
Liberal VVD Minister Hoogervorst will make a decision after the summer whether to close the Medicinal Cannabis Bureau (BMC), which has been growing and supplying cannabis under ministry supervision since 2003.
But the minister also told MPs on Thursday that in times of budget cutbacks, such a project was destined to be scrapped. The project will continue temporarily until a decision is made about its long-term future.
He also said doctors are not very positive about prescribing cannabis to patients and patients prefer to buy marijuana from coffee shops where it is a lot cheaper, Radio Netherlands reported. Coffee shop cannabis is about half the price of legal, medicinal cannabis.
BMC director Willem Scholten said at the launch of the scheme that 15,000 patients would be supplied with medicinal cannabis per year. Just 1,500 people are availing of the scheme, good for just 70kg of cannabis compared with an initial estimate of 400kg.
The BMC lost almost EUR 40,000 last year, but is hoping to restrict that to 30,000 this year.
Hoogervorst also stressed that the medicinal properties of cannabis have never been proven. He also said that the use of cannabis also has side-effects such as psychoses. "I think that's an enormous problem," the minister said.
But the BMC asserted that patients do benefit from using cannabis and psychoses occur only rarely. It also said medicinal cannabis is only 10 percent more expensive if the strength of the product is taken into account.