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Last Updated: Monday, 1 September, 2003, 02:18 GMT 03:18 UK
Dutch to prescribe cannabis
By Geraldine Coughlan
BBC correspondent in The Hague

From Monday, Dutch doctors will be able to prescribe medicinal cannabis to patients.

Cannabis
Several countries are researching the use of medical cannabis
Soft-drug use is tolerated in the Netherlands, but for the past two years the government's Bureau for Medicinal Cannabis (BMC) has been researching the effect of the drug on patients.

Other countries, including the UK, are also considering allowing the sale of the drug in pharmacies.

Medicinal cannabis is intended as a pain reliever for cancer and Aids patients, and for people suffering from other illnesses, such as multiple sclerosis.

In line with United Nations narcotics regulations, the BMC is monitoring the cultivation and distribution of the drug.

Five-gram packets

The BMC has signed a contract with two marijuana growers to supply pharmacies.

The drug will be sold in five-gram packets for around $50.

Public-health insurers are to decide this week whether they will cover the costs.

The use of soft drugs is illegal but tolerated in the Netherlands, and cannabis is openly sold in so-called coffee shops.

In March this year, the government changed the opium law to allow doctors to prescribe the drug through pharmacists.

The Netherlands is co-operating with other countries who are researching the use of medicinal cannabis, including Canada, the United States, Britain, Switzerland and Belgium.


WATCH AND LISTEN
The BBC's Geraldine Coughlan reports from The Hague
"Soft drugs are illegal but tolerated in the Netherlands"



SEE ALSO:
Q&A: Cannabis pain trial
20 Aug 03  |  Health
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Cannabis 'not medical panacea'
05 Jul 01  |  Health


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