Cannabis back in Dutch pharmacies, but...

Discussion in 'Marijuana News' started by cannabinol, Aug 31, 2003.

  1. Medical Marihuana (back) in the pharmacy in Holland from September 1!!

    Haarlem, August 30, 2003.

    No longer to a coffeeshop for Mediweed.

    All pharmacies in the area will supply cannabis on prescription from Monday.

    Haarlem – About 80 Haarlemmers that use cannabis as medicine no longer have to depend on coffeeshops. From Next Monday, September 1, cannabis is a recognised and legal medicine, available from pharmacies.
    Hans Mulder, chairman of the Pharmacies Union in Haarlem, a pharmacist in Zandvoort himself, expects that all connected pharmacies in the region will be able to supply Mediweed on prescription. He considers it an important decision that patients for Mediweed will no longer have to depend on coffeeshops.
    “Contrary to the coffeeshop on the corner, one will get a standardised product in the pharmacy”, says Mulder. “Besides that it is good that the pharmacist gets an insight in the use of cannabis by patients.”
    Nol van Schaik, coffeeshop owner in Haarlem, and a fore fighter for the legalisation of Mediweed, is also pleased with the development.
    “Through this decision, weed has become a legally recognised medicine”, according to van Schaik.
    The coffeeshop owner already supplies Mediweed for many years (from 1996) to about 80 patients in and around Haarlem, for the buyers price.
    “If and when the weed will be available from pharmacies, we will have reached our goal.”

    Cannabis can prevent nausea after chemotherapy, eases the pain and reduces spasms, as well as it reduces the uncontrollable cry-outs and movements by people that suffer from Gilles de la Tourette syndrome.
    Two cultivators that work exclusively for the Government are producing the Mediweed that will be in stock at the pharmacies soon.
    After being harvested, the cannabis is being sterilised, wrapped in 5 gram portions and shipped to the pharmacies. That has a price, a gram of weed is going to cost about 9 to 11 Euros.
    A socially concerned coffeeshop offers Mediweed for the buyers price to patients, a gram will cost them 3 to 4 Euros.
    Other than the weed at coffeeshops, the pharmacy weed will have a constant composition and effect, with equal dosage.
    The extra check-ups, after-education and the supply through a pharmacy also cause the difference in price. It is not known if the health-insurance companies are going to pick up the bills for the medicine.

    Source: Haarlems Dagblad.
    By Coen Springelkamp.
    Pub. date: Aug 30, 2003.
    Translation : Nol van Schaik.
  2. Comment on article in Haarlems Dagblad, August 30, 2003.
    Article: “No longer to a coffeeshop for Mediweed”

    Malaga – Spain, August 31, 2003.

    As I stated to the reporter, Coen Springelcamp, I am very pleased with the fact that cannabis is finally accepted for its medicinal properties in the eyes of the Dutch Government, but that is about the only thing that was printed in my local newspaper, my criticism was let out, so I will sprout that here.

    The “Mediwiet” program (Medicinal marihuana = Mediweed) was an initiative of Wernard Bruining, world famous for opening both the first coffeeshop in Amsterdam, Mellow Yellow, in 1972, and Europe's first growshop, Positronics, in 1986, from where Mediwiet was started.
    Wernard set up the Mediweed distribution through coffeeshops in 1996, as a protest against the high prices the pharmacies charged sick people for marihuana, which they supplied already then. The pharmacies charged 12 guilders a gram (5.50 euros) , those days, but the medicine was not covered by the health insurance companies. This meant that sick people on a low, social security income had to pay a lot of money to relief the symptoms of their disease or pain. After Wernard found out about that, he felt that patients should be able to get their herbal medicine cheaper, leading to the initiation of the Mediweed program. The participating coffeeshops and growshops would supply patients, with a prescription or a Doctor's note, for the buyers price, about 6 guilders a gram. That would save the patients either a lot of money, or they could afford more marihuana for their budget, instead of taking regular, refunded medicines that did not make them feel any better, as Wernard saw it.

    I decided to join the Mediweed program as soon as I found out about it, in June 1996, meaning I had to pay 500 guilders (225 Euros) to join and sell my weed without profit to patients that asked for it, which was considered not done by many a colleague, unfortunately.
    The money was to cover the expenses for the Mediweed sign for the front of the coffeeshop, and 50 dossiers for the patients, to be given out for free, meant to inform the patients about how to use and dose their medical marihuana, the diseases and pains it gave relief for, with some evidence from other patients already using marihuana.
    I fully agreed with it all, before joining I had already been speaking to an MS patient that asked for Mediweed in my coffeeshop, he explained me that he was feeling way better since he started using marihuana, a year ago, it practically reduced his pain and spasms to zero. He also explained he slept way better, and, dry! He explained that he used to have spasms in his bladder muscles, causing him to p his bed, but he could now sleep without getting him and his wife wet. His story, and especially the last part, deeply touched me, and made me a Mediweed man from then until now and days to come.
    I gave our staff all a Mediwiet dossier, to inform themselves about the medical properties of marihuana, and the effect on patients with certain diseases and disabilities, after all, they had to start giving out marihuana and a word of support and advice to seriously ill and desperate people. They picked it up very well, most of the staff from those days are still working for us, they learned about Mediweed, as they listened to the stories of the patients they served for 7 years now. Marcel, the all time manager of my coffeeshop, and me, used to do the intake talks with new Mediweed patients, and to register them as a member to the program. We supplied them a Mediweed card to enable them to get their marihuana for half the price on our extended cannabis-menu, in any quantity they would like. We did ask for a doctor's prescription or a note that said the doctor had no objections against his patient to use Mediweed to find possible relief. During those talks, we were told heartbreaking stories, without asking for it, but the patients just had to get something of their chest, for obvious reasons.

    In May 1997 I met Ger de Zwaan, I was directed to him by Positronics, just before they went bankrupt, Dennis, a Positronics staff member, considered him the man to speak to about medical marihuana, he was a private person, and a Mediweed patient, supplying hundreds of patients, if he could get them the marihuana they desired.
    De Zwaan told me he was about to give up, he had no resources, and he was down to his last 3 “Medical Marihuana in Practice” dossiers, an extended form of Wernard's example. In the meanwhile, I had found out that Positronics went bankrupt, so the Mediweed program lost its base and founder. I decided to help de Zwaan, president of the Patient-group for Medical Marihuana (PMM) back on his feet, without Positronics and de Zwaan, I would probably be the only left one supplying patients in the Netherlands, for a reasonable price. In return, I asked de Zwaan to set up the Medical marihuana display in the Hempmuseum I was going to open the next year, he agreed on that without hesitation.
    The first thing we did was to order 500 copies of de Zwaan's dossiers, so the patients could use the information to see which way of ingesting marihuana would fit them best, and how to do that. After that, we decided to set de Zwaan up in my office, so we could work closely together, many patients had been without marihuana. I gave de Zwaan 500 grams of good marihuana to start with, he could get more on credit, which he would pay after he had the money in from the patients he served through the mail mainly, the buyers price, of course.
    We started approaching colleague coffeeshop- and growshop-owners for their participation and support, and made appointments for a meeting with those who were open for the initiative, some of them were participating in Mediwiet before.
    De Zwaan and me started to drive around the Netherlands to meet my willing colleagues, most of them started participating from the day we met, by the end of July 1997 we had gathered 43 participating coffeeshops and growshops, that would be an outlet for Mediweed, connected to the PMM. We supplied the participating shops with a window shield and 50 number of Mediweed dossier, we charged a 500 guilder membership fee, meant to sponsor de Zwaan's PMM, in order to be able to rent a place for the PMM in Rotterdam. De Zwaan would serve and advice the patients in and from there, so patients could just come and learn how to use marihuana as a medicine in practice, with other patients.

    On August 6, 1997, I was having a coffee and joint with de Zwaan after his arrival, before we would be leaving to a meeting with another colleague for the Mediweed program. De Zwaan was called before he could drink his coffee, by the ANP, the Dutch News Agency, whom informed him about Holland's Health Minister, Els Borst, had forbidden doctors to write prescriptions for marihuana, and that pharmacists were forbidden to give it out any longer.
    Maripharm supplied the pharmacies at that time, and even some reluctant pharmacists until today, but this company surprisingly did not get one of the State's Marihuana Cultivation licenses.
    De Zwaan and me immediately jumped in to action, by giving out a press-release stating that the PMM and 43 coffeeshops were ready and willing to supply Holland's medical marihuana patients, for half the price of the standardised pharmacy cannabis, so they did not have to be without their medicine of choice. We included a list of the participating Mediweed outlets.
    The next few days we were overwhelmed by the many reactions and visits off the press, besides 9 newspapers and magazines, three TV stations broadcasted the news about our Mediweed project. One of the broadcasts also showed a reluctant pharmacist, who stated he kept on supplying his patients with marihuana, convinced as he was it worked for his patients, who told him about the benefits and medical effects of cannabis.
    We also announced we would found the “Actiongroup Cannabis for Medicine”, made up out of the participating cannabusiness people involved in distributing Mediweed, as we had agreed with them. We would have the founders meeting after the holidays, but with the latest developments in mind, we decided to forward the date to the next week, August 14, to make sure all 43 outlets were ready and well equipped with information by that time.
    On that day, August 14, only 16 of my colleagues showed up, the rest was away for holidays, but we had voting-rights for 31 more, who we had contacted by phone, in person, or the management.
    We got good attention in the newspapers and on TV again, showing the meeting and a map of Holland, with 43 Mediweed flags pinned in it, well spread over the country, representing the medical marihuana outlets. The initiative got political support from a socialist party member, Dr. Oudkerk, from the PvdA, and Roger van Boxtel, Democrats'66, who both stated that sick and terminal people should have the right to use marihuana, if it worked for them.
    Even Minister Borst understood what we were doing, when she allowed doctors to write prescriptions again, to be handed over in Mediweed coffeeshops, a few weeks later.
    After launching the ACM, in support of the PMM, de Zwaan found a nice office to rent, suitable to house his Medical marihuana Info Centre, close to his house in Rotterdam. We decided this would be the place to base the first Medical Marihuana Centre in Holland, the contributions from the member coffeeshops was used to pay the rent for a while, and to do the necessary fixing up of the premises. Some of my staff members and me helped by painting the place, so that the patients could have their opening reception as soon as possible.

    De Zwaan and his wife went at it, all the publicity we generated also generated a new inflow of patients, and all of them needed marihuana, which we still delivered to de Zwaan on credit.
    A few days after de Zwaan opened, he had an article in a Rotterdam newspaper, in which he stated he offered a better alternative than the obscure, smoky coffeeshops the patients had to go to now, stabbing us, his sponsors and distributors, straight in the back.
    I asked de Zwaan why he said it that way, he stated that he did not mean and put it that way, the newspaper had twisted his words.
    After that little mishap, which made a lot of coffeeshop owners quit paying their contribution, like myself, de Zwaan did not show up to set up a Medical marihuana display in the Global Hempmuseum we opened in July 1998, he did not keep his promise from the day we met.
    I kept on giving out Medical Marihuana, independently, with our own member-cards and all, for the buyers price, and with the best possible advice and support.
    In 1999, we published a book, called Marihuana as Medicine in Practice, composed and written by Hendrik Geels, for the Global Hempmuseum, a compilation of interviews with patients and the change they underwent after starting to use marihuana with their respective diseases, a positive change. Besides that, a clear and extensive chapter on how to dose, how to possibly ingest the marihuana and lots of recipes to include the medicinal herb in food, snacks and sauces.
    The book was dedicated to the efforts of Wernard Bruining, who came to the book presentation to accept a copy, and to address the patients that showed up for the event, all patients in the book were there for the occasion. De Zwaan later insulted Hendrik Geels seriously on a seminar for coffeeshop owners and workers, where Geels presented the book to the industry. De Zwaan said he was about to make such a book, and that he had more rights to do so, amongst words I do not wish to type down. Sad.

    The Global Hempmuseum became the information centre for patients from Haarlem, Amsterdam and far beyond that, and, after patients had absorbed what cannabis and Mediweed was all about, like what it could do for their quality of life, we sent them to our coffeeshop, to pick up the marihuana or hash they desired.
    Some of our patients even expressed how happy they were with the marihuana and the choice they had at Willie Wortel's in the newspaper, after another story that coffeeshop cannabis was not fit for patients. Some of them had tried the pharmacy cannabis, which they considered second grade marihuana, not as potent and effective as the Mediweed they bought, cheaper, at our place. Next to hash and marihuana, all grown wild, we also stock and offer a hot chocolate mix with pollinated THC, THC Chocolate lollipops and THC chocolate bars, developed for those patients who do or can not smoke their marihuana.

    Now, if you look at the newspaper article from a patient's point of view, what has changed?

    Nothing, they already knew it benefits them, they experience that themselves.
    They still do not get a refund for their medicine of choice, even if they buy it from an official pharmacy, for twice the price they used to pay in the coffeeshop, they would only loose more money, for marihuana that is not as potent as the marihuana in my coffeeshops. Not only would it cost them more, they would also have to use more cannabis, to get the same medical effects they had with more potent marihuana, so they would have to buy and smoke more State marihuana, with all financial consequences.
    State Marihuana only comes in two varieties of dried, sterilised cannabis buds.

    The new Dutch Medical Marihuana initiative has nothing to do with patients, it has to do with business and cash, the pharmaceutical Mafia is afraid that marihuana might push all tranquilisers, painkillers, muscle relaxants and other chemical drugs of the market. Their greed and power-hunger makes the price of State marihuana, not the trade in it.

    I already spoke to Wernard, he said he never meant it this way, so he will again try to stimulate Dutch coffeeshops to hand out Mediweed for half the price, to show the government, the State-growers and the pharmacists that we care for patients.
    My coffeeshops will keep giving out Mediweed as long as people keep asking for it, for the buyers price, in the spirit of Wernard's first set up of a Medical Marihuana program.

    I am not saying the pharmacy marihuana is no good, because I have not seen any State weed yet, but James Burton, an American Vietnam Vet, who is one of Holland's State marihuana growers, already stated that he will supply the Dutch pharmacies a mediocre weed, he could do way better for individual patients. Burton, who spent a year in an American prison for growing pot, got one of the licenses ‘because he could deliver weed of a constant quality for a reasonable price'. How Burton, suffering from Glaucoma, got passed the Dutch State Growers criteria, is a riddle to me, one of them being: Anyone applying for this license to grow marihuana for medical purposes should never have been involved in the illegal production of marihuana. This criteria shut out a lot of Holland most experienced growers, they had always been involved in the production of marihuana, illegal, of course…

    Maripharm, who have been supplying pharmacies for 8 years now, stops the delivery of marihuana, afraid as they are for actions by the Law. The spokesperson, Jolanda van Herk did not want to say if Maripharm continued growing cannabis.

    De Zwaan's PMM risks a raid by the police now, says Willem Scholten, head of the State's Bureau for Medical Marihuana (BMC), as they do not have a license to sell weed, not even a coffeeshop license. Scholten obviously does not like competition, so he will use the force of the Law to do a Mafia style execution of his opponents.
    De Zwaan: “If the Police and the Ministry show up, we close the door. They will have to break it down then.”
    The PMM serves about 2500 patients their Mediweed, at 3.50 – 4.- Euros per gram.

    I just had to get this all of my chest, after reading the article and a night of no sleep over the way it ended, we won, but some of us lost, and the patients do not gain anything, although it is a step forward for cannabis as a medicine, a fair step.

    Nol van Schaik,
    Co-founder of Actiongroup Cannabis for Medicine.
    Medical Marihuana distributor.
    Coffeeshop entrepreneur.

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