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Green Divide: Marijuana Leaves Danish Doctors Skeptical, Companies Buoyant

CC0 / / Cannabis
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From January 1, 2018, some Danish patients will be able to undergo treatments using medicinal cannabis. Although the Parliament remains undecided on the home cultivation of the green drug, companies are already lining up for permits.

Pending a decision from the Danish Parliament on cannabis husbandry, 13 companies have requested farming licenses, Danish Radio reported.

Liselott Blixt, health rapporteur of the Danish People's Party of the ruling government coalition, welcomed the companies' interest, venturing that the increased competition could lead to a price reduction in homegrown cannabis.

The $3.5 million medicinal cannabis trial program will last for four years and is expected to cover about 1,500 patients affected by severe, incurable and excruciatingly painful diseases such as multiple sclerosis, cancer or nerve disorders and may be made permanent after evaluation.

"I'm very excited about it. We have a lot of people who have to incriminate themselves to obtain medicinal cannabis," Liselott Blixt said, referring to a 2016 case when a Danish couple was arrested for providing cannabis as a relief to terminal patients. "That's what they are forced to do, because they've tried a lot of other drugs, but only medicinal marijuana proved to be of help," she continued.

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Djursland-based Danish Cannabis, one of the 13 applicant companies, hopes to be able to provide the sought-after relief without any adverse-side effects. At present, palliative medicinal cannabis in Denmark treatments may cost a patient between $350 and $930 a month. According to Danish Cannabis CEO Lars Tomassen, the ambition is to halve the price, while also having a shot at international markets.

"Granted we have to make some money, if we can contribute to a folk drug out of 4,000-year-old product, then we'll have made a difference here on earth," Lars Tomassen said.

No Green Light From Doctors

However, the success of the medicinal cannabis trial program remains questionable, as very few Danish doctors are willing to prescribe the "miracle cure," according to a report by Danish Radio. Denmark's General Practitioners Association (PLO) remains noncommittal due to many studies lacking proof of its effectiveness or highlighting possible side effects.

"When I write out a prescription, it leaves me responsible for all effects and side effects, and how it affects the intake of other drugs. I don't have this kind of knowledge with cannabis," Lise Høyer, who chairs the PLT's branch in Central Jutland, told Danish Radio, voicing the medical circles' popular sentiment.

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The lack of broad support puts the program on the verge of collapse, the PLT argued.

Annemette Knudsen Alstrup of PLT North Jutland called the trial scheme "enjoying political support, but lacking professional sense." She also argued it created a false sense of hope for many patients.

At present, recreational cannabis is illegal in Denmark, yet certain cannabis derivatives are allowed for medical use by prescription.

​Despite being officially outlawed, cannabis sale is known to have been tolerated in the Copenhagen hippy neighborhood of Freetown Christiania, known for its unconventional names such as Pusher Street and Green Light District. Following a 2016 shooting, in which two police officers were wounded, cannabis trade was once again restricted.

​(caption: Governments come and go, Christiania remains)

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