Most people around the world struggle to get their hands on medical marijuana. But some countries have medical systems that help patients purchase medical cannabis without too much effort. Let’s take a look at the 15 best countries for medical marijuana around the world.
The European medical cannabis market is growing at a rapid pace, but the current legal situation of medical cannabis is a complicated one. Each state sets its own rules for medical marijuana use and some enforce measures that are difficult to respect, hindering patients’ access to treatment.
Germany can be a positive model for other EU countries. The German authorities came up with a regulatory approach that led to the development of a safe and high-quality market for cannabis-based medicine.
In 2018, German doctors issued nearly 142,000 medical marijuana prescriptions, helping approximately 60,000 patients get their much-needed medicine. And most of these patients didn’t have to spend money on their cannabis treatments because their health insurance reimbursed the prescriptions.
South American countries are renowned for their wars on drugs, and most do not provide their citizens access to certified medical marijuana treatment programmes. But Argentina’s medical cannabis programme is one of the best in the world at the moment.
Argentina provides free treatments to registered patients who have a doctor’s recommendation for cannabis. To qualify for the treatment, patients must first register with a national programme governed by the Argentinian Ministry of Health. Then, they have to obtain a cannabis prescription.
Argentinian doctors prescribe marijuana for epilepsy, osteoarthritis, autism, HIV and more. The Ministry of Health is responsible for keeping track of the individuals who have access to medical cannabis, so patients have to get recertified for their medical marijuana treatments on a regular basis.
Canada is now renowned for making marijuana legal for recreational use. But few people remember that Canada was one of the first countries to legalise medical cannabis back in the 2000s.
In 2001, Canada passed the Marihuana Medical Access Regulations programme. This allowed patients to procure cannabis by either growing it themselves, purchasing it from Health Canada or by designating a caregiver to grow cannabis for them.
The Canadian authorities constantly improved their regulations over the years. The most recent update facilitated patients’ access to cannabis. At the end of September 2019, Canada had 369,614 patients registered with a licensed medical marijuana seller. At the same time, 29,193 individuals were allowed to grow their own cannabis for medical purposes.
Joining Canada’s medical marijuana programme is easy and involves just a few simple steps. A patient must qualify for the national programme, get a physician’s approval to use marijuana as treatment and purchase the medicine from a licensed source. Registered patients in Canada are allowed to carry up to 150 grams of cannabis, depending on their medical condition.
4. The United States
The legal situation of medical cannabis in the U.S. is a complicated one. Only 33 states and the District of Columbia have legalised marijuana for medical purposes, 14 of which also legalised the recreational use of cannabis.
But, at a federal level, medical cannabis remains a prohibited substance. As a result, some local authorities do not recognise the status of patients who are registered in other states. However, some states have user-friendly medical cannabis programmes, and people can qualify as patients without too much effort.
The qualifying conditions for patients vary from state to state, but many of them are the same across the country. Glaucoma is the most common medical condition for cannabis prescriptions, and it accounts for almost 67 percent of the prescriptions in the U.S.
Australia legalised medical cannabis in 2016. Nowadays, any Australian doctor can prescribe marijuana for certain medical conditions under the Special Access Scheme.
When Australia first started its medical cannabis programme, it used to take weeks or months to get approved as a medical marijuana patient. Nowadays, this is usually a short and smooth process, with patients being approved in a matter of hours.
Aussies can receive a prescription for marijuana only if they suffer from certain medical conditions. Some of the most common conditions that qualify for cannabis treatment in Australia include chronic pain syndrome, Crohn’s disease, epilepsy, multiple sclerosis, arthritis, cancer and dementia.
One of the things that make the Australian medical cannabis programme stand out is the fact that cannabis can also be prescribed as an adjuvant. If doctors believe cannabis can lower the patient’s current dose of medication, they can prescribe it to improve the patient’s quality of life.
Uruguay is one of the few countries around the world that have never criminalised cannabis. As a result, the country is famous for its liberal cannabis laws.
Medical cannabis users in Uruguay can purchase up to 10 grams of cannabis per week. Individuals who are registered to grow their own cannabis for medical purposes are not allowed to produce more than 480 grams of cannabis flower per year.
Anyone who wants to use cannabis in Uruguay has to register at the Institution of Regulation and Control of Cannabis (IRCCA). Every pharmacy in the country can check their customers’ ID by scanning their fingerprint and accessing the IRCCA’s registry. The database shows the customers’ weekly and monthly marijuana quota and prevents them from exceeding it.
What’s great about the Uruguayan medical cannabis programme is that the government protects its citizens by selling both medical and recreational marijuana cheaper than what’s available on the black market.
Israel legalised cannabis for medical use in 1973, but the industry only started to develop in the 1990s. In recent years, the Israeli authorities started backing their country’s thriving cannabis industry.
In some ways, Israel is the most advanced country regarding licensing and regulation after Canada. While Canada is the home of 9 out of the top 10 cannabis corporations in the world, Israel is home to multiple companies activating in medical marijuana research.
But despite the country’s long history of cannabis growing and research, the Israeli medical cannabis programme is not overly large. There are only about 46,000 people registered as cannabis patients in the country.
Getting qualified as a medical cannabis user in Israel is not very easy. Doctors will only prescribe cannabis to patients who didn’t get results from first-line therapy options. For example, chronic pain sufferers might have to go through anti-inflammatories, nerve blockers, epidural injections and opioid treatments before they can qualify for medical marijuana.
Chile decriminalised the personal use of cannabis in 2005 and then legalised it for medical consumption in 2015. Even though Chile doesn’t have a national medical cannabis programme, the local authorities allow people suffering from certain health problems to get medical marijuana from pharmacies if they have a prescription.
Chilean patients can also grow their own marijuana at home, but only in small quantities. Possession of large quantities is criminalised and punishable by a fine or jail time, depending on the quantity.
Local authorities are currently trying to implement telemedicine services into their national health system. This would allow health facilities to communicate with one another, which should help regulate the medical marijuana industry.
Medical marijuana consumption has been legal in Italy since 2013. It’s estimated that about 3,000 Italians use cannabis for medical purposes. In late January 2020, leading authorities of the Sicilian regional government made marijuana free of charge.
To qualify as medical marijuana patients, Italians have to obtain a doctor’s prescription. Eligible medical conditions include multiple sclerosis, chronic pain, nausea, anorexia, glaucoma and more.
However, only patients who have tried conventional treatments without success are eligible for cannabis medicine. And symptoms like nausea or anorexia must stem from serious ailments or treatments such as HIV/AIDS or radiation treatment to qualify.
Italy’s Ministry of Health is going to increase the quantity of medical marijuana it produces domestically. The production increase is a positive sign for the country’s growing medical cannabis programme.
Poland allowed the use of medical marijuana in 2017, after a legalisation process that spanned over more than two years. But the Polish medical cannabis programme is both more prohibitive and more liberal than others.
The medical programme is prohibitive because it doesn’t allow the domestic cultivation of cannabis. On the other hand, the programme is more liberal because every Polish patient can go to a pharmacy and order a medical cannabis product without signing up to a national registry.
However, this situation often leads to bottlenecks in the market. Patients have to rely on pharmacies to acquire their products, and not all pharmacies work with distributors who have cannabis products on stock.
But despite these inconveniences, doctors can prescribe cannabis for a wide variety of medical conditions. In fact, the ambiguity of the Polish medical cannabis law allows doctors to prescribe marijuana according to the latest research in the field.
11. Czech Republic
The Czech Republic is renowned for its liberal drug policies, and it legalised medical marijuana in 2013. This country doesn’t have a national medical cannabis programme in place. Instead, the authorities allow doctors to prescribe cannabis just like any other medicine.
Czech medical users are allowed to buy up to 30 grams of cannabis flower per month. The qualifying medical conditions for cannabis prescriptions include chronic pain, glaucoma, nausea due to cancer treatment or HIV, psoriasis and more. Only adults are allowed to consume cannabis products, so the treatments are prohibited for patients younger than 18.
The Czech Republic does not require patients to join a national registry, but only those who have a doctor’s prescription can purchase marijuana.
That being said, there are only about 60 doctors authorised to prescribe cannabis in the entire country. However, the Czech Ministry of Health wants to set up a national telemedicine programme by 2020. This programme will allow cannabis patients to connect with medical marijuana doctors across the country.
Patients currently have to visit their local pharmacy, request their medicine and wait for it to arrive, so the acquisition process can be a lengthy one.
Colombia decriminalised cannabis in 2012 but legalised it for medical use in 2015. The Colombian authorities support the local cannabis industry, and the South American country is now one of the largest cannabis producers in the world. But Colombia also has a thriving domestic medical marijuana market.
Colombian patients can purchase cannabis from licensed producers or they can grow their own plants. The current medical cannabis programme in Colombia does not make cannabis exclusive to people with certain medical conditions.
Patients talk to their doctors and together they determine if medical cannabis can help. Those who consume medical marijuana don’t have to join a national registry and can buy their medicine directly from the pharmacy.
The current laws do not allow patients to buy fresh or dried cannabis flower. Most of the cannabis products sold in Colombia are oils or creams.
Even though Belgium decriminalised cannabis in 2003, its medical cannabis programme began in 2015. The programme allows all doctors to prescribe cannabis as medicine, even to children. In addition, patients are not required to apply to a national registry to use cannabis as medicine.
Belgium’s current cannabis laws allow its citizens to cultivate their own marijuana plants. However, only cannabis-based products like Sativex, Cesame or Marinol are 100 percent legal. The rest of the products fall under a grey legal area.
As a result, only people who suffer from multiple sclerosis, fibromyalgia, cancer and HIV qualify as patients. But the qualification process is very straightforward. Patients just have to get a prescription from their doctors and pick up their medication from the pharmacy.
Croatia legalised medical cannabis in 2015 after a patient suffering from multiple sclerosis was arrested for growing cannabis plants. The case angered the population and a cannabis law was quickly drafted.
The Croatian medical marijuana programme allows patients to purchase cannabis medication directly from the pharmacy with a prescription. The patients don’t have to register in a national database to do so.
Only people suffering from multiple sclerosis, cancer, epilepsy and AIDS qualify for the Croatian medical cannabis programme. Those who are younger than 18 can receive cannabis medication only if their legal guardians agree with the treatment. Croatian medical cannabis patients receive a maximum of 7.5 grams of cannabis per month.
15. The Netherlands
The Netherlands legalised the prescription of medical cannabis back in 2001. Most Dutch insurance companies reimbursed medical cannabis patients for their treatments until 2017. In recent years, some insurance companies have backed away from covering the needs of cannabis patients.
Dutch doctors only prescribe medical marijuana when traditional treatments are ineffective or if they produce unwanted side effects. The most common ailments that get cannabis prescriptions are multiple sclerosis, cancer, spinal cord damage, HIV/AIDS and Tourette’s syndrome.
Patients don’t have to apply to a national registry to receive their medication, but they need to have a prescription to pick their medicine up from the pharmacy.
Final thoughts on the best countries for medical cannabis
These are currently the 15 best countries for medical marijuana. If you believe another country should have made the list, let us know in the comment section below. We update these lists regularly, and your suggestion might make the revision.