Frankfurt am Main is known for a few things—depending largely on where and who you are. The city’s nickname—Mainhattan—is a reference both to New York and London’s financial markets as well as skyscrapers.
Others see it as a unique, if ancient, stadt with a fabulous river, great public transportation and half an hour from the best-connected airport in the EU. Frankfurt also has one of the highest levels of living in the country as well as some of its highest incomes per capita. The city also has one of the highest percentages of Auslanders resident here than any other German city and Hesse, the German state in which Frankfurt is located, is fourth overall, nationwide.
However, Frankfurt has a few other distinctions that are not quite so postcard pretty. Namely it has been an illicit drug haven, especially around its hauptbahnhofviertel (main train station and surrounding area), for decades. Heroin, and now crack, addicts are still a public tragedy here that have not been wiped out against a backdrop of a seedy red-light district that would make many in Amsterdam blush.
As a result, the city has been involved, and for a long time, in trying to clean up this bane in the middle of big banking—literally in the shadow of some of the best-known financial entities in the world. And so it should also be no surprise, that finally, almost four years after the law changed here to mandate coverage of medical cannabis by prescription, the first German cities are getting involved.
This time to train doctors to prescribe medical cannabis.
It is also no accident that Frankfurt is also one of the pilot cities in the country for the rollout of this kind of medical training program. It is desperately needed. The more patients who are shut out of the legitimate path to obtaining cannabis—namely via medical prescription and their local pharmacy—the more will end up in the illicit market.
To Germans, at this point, such ideas are common sense.
Creating A “Lasting Discourse”
In launching the program, the city hopes to meet a burgeoning need even as it admits a rather basic and depressing fact. It is very hard to find a prescribing cannabis doctor here. Even at places like the city Uniklinik—the research hospital on the southern edge of the city—doctors are still highly hostile to the idea of medical cannabis.
In launching this program, Regina Erst, head of the municipal drug department, hopes to initiate a “lasting discourse” for medical doctors to learn more about prescribing the drug. She and other colleagues who work for the department are not unaware of the large and increasing problem of making sure that Germans who need the drug prescribed to them can actually get it.
The city is now making the first steps to address that by holding two video conferences, scheduled for February 24 and March 17.
Addressing A Lingering Social Gap
It is no secret that potential cannabis patients still have a very time finding a prescribing doctor. And nobody at the City Drogenreferat, the city department now overseeing the new doctor education program, thinks that just two online video trainings are going to fix the problem. But it is clearly a start. Especially for a department that is mostly tasked with trying to get users off of much harder drugs.
In Frankfurt, certainly, there is a real potential for medical cannabis to be a gateway drug away from the harder drugs that are not only still illegal, but obviously come with terrible health effects.
Frankfurt is also, probably not coincidentally, the location of Cansativa, the sole German distribution company which recently won the tender to distribute German-grown medical cannabis.
It is a very good place, in other words, to start with a full-blown, medical cannabis intervention program that could also be used to significantly stem the other drug issues in the city.
What Are The Biggest Hurdles In Integrating Cannabis into Healthcare?
Even with “drug education” by doctors for doctors, there are lingering problems that remain in integrating the drug here, just as say, in Canada.
The first of course is that doctors still do not know all that much about cannabis—for any condition. And to date, particularly in places like Canada and Germany, would prefer to listen to other doctors than patients at this point.
There are some exceptions to this of course. Dr. Franjo Grotenhermen, a prescribing cannabis artz and the co-founder of the International Association for Cannabinoid Medicines with American Dr. Ethan Russo, has led the fight from the medical trenches for several decades at this point. He makes it a point to listen to patients—including the fact that most would still prefer flos (flower) to more manufactured “medicine.” And that most prescriptions—even for chronic pain and MS—are being written for smaller amounts than patients actually need.
Regardless of the hurdles that still remain along the way, however, these are clearly steps in the right direction, and further, taken not only from a public health but medical perspective.
Just imagine the day when this kind of idea might take hold in say, the U.S. And further when not only the doctor visits but the cannabis itself is covered under health insurance, costing patients about $12 a month.