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The Dutch in a cannabis first

Amsterdam, Sept. 1 (Reuters): The Netherlands today became the world’s first country to make cannabis available as a prescription drug in pharmacies to treat cancer, HIV and multiple sclerosis patients, the health ministry said.

The Netherlands is making the drug widely available to chronically ill patients amid pressure on countries like Britain, Canada, Australia and the US to relax restrictions on its supply as a medicine.

Dutch doctors will be allowed to prescribe it to treat chronic pain, nausea and loss of appetite in cancer and HIV patients, to alleviate MS sufferers’ spasm pains and reduce physical or verbal tics in people suffering from Tourette’s syndrome.

“From September 1, 2003 pharmacies can provide medicinal cannabis to patients with a prescription from a doctor. Cannabis has a beneficial effect for many patients,” the ministry said.

The Netherlands, where prostitution and the sale of cannabis in coffee shops are regulated by the government, has a history of pioneering social reforms.

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