As of October 15, 2015, Croatia has been added to the list of European Union (EU) countries that now allow marijuana for medical purposes. Other countries within the EU that permit some degree of marijuana use include Spain, Portugal, the Czech Republic, and the Netherlands.
The legalization of the sale and use of marijuana-derived products for medical use in Croatia was inspired by Huanito Luksetic, an individual with multiple sclerosis. Police arrested Luksetic for growing marijuana plants in his garden in a village near the northern city of Rijeka. Authorities seized 20 kilos (44 pounds) of marijuana from Luksetic, who grew the plant to make cannabis oil to help ease his multiple sclerosis symptoms.
“For us, patients, cannabis is one of the most important plants for our lives and health,” Luksetic said of medical marijuana in an interview with the Agence France-Presse (AFP). “Everyone should have the right to choice and self-cure.”
Cannabis oil has, until present, been available on the Croatian black market for prices ranging from €300 to €600 (currently about $340–$680) for 10 grams.
Based on Luksetic’s experience, several medical and patient associations lobbied for the use of marijuana oil to treat the disease. The Croatian health ministry convened an expert commission to evaluate the issue, resulting in the current ease on regulations against cannabis use. Health Minister Sinisa Varga stated that medical marijuana will be available for purchase in pharmacies most likely within the next few weeks. “According to information that we have from wholesale drugstores, quite a lot of them are interested in importing (cannabis-derived products) to Croatia,” said Varga.
In the United States, medical marijuana is now legal in 23 states, the District of Columbia and Guam. According to the Institute of Medicine Report for the National Academies Press, “Scientific data indicate the potential therapeutic value of cannabinoid drugs, primarily THC [tetrahydrocannabinol], for pain relief, control of nausea and vomiting, and appetite stimulation; smoked marijuana, however, is a crude THC delivery system that also delivers harmful substances. The psychological effects of cannabinoids, such as anxiety reduction, sedation, and euphoria can influence their potential therapeutic value. Those effects are potentially undesirable for certain patients and situations, and beneficial for others. In addition, psychological effects can complicate the interpretation of other aspects of the drug’s effect.”
Research studies have indicated that marijuana can help alleviate symptoms of HIV/AIDS, multiple sclerosis, cancer, and glaucoma. As Croatia joins other EU countries in allowing the use of medical marijuana, it remains to be seen whether more EU countries will follow.