Germany to legalize medicinal marijuana by 2017

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Story highlights

  • Germany's cabinet made the decision Monday
  • Patients must "have no therapeutic alternative"
  • Health minister wants insurance to pay for the "seriously ill"

(CNN)Germany will legalize medical marijuana next year, the country's health minister said.

The German cabinet decided Monday to approve the measure for seriously ill patients who have consulted with a doctor and "have no therapeutic alternative," according to a press release from the German Health Ministry.
    "Our goal is that seriously ill people are looked after to the best of our ability," Federal Health Minister Hermann Gröhe said.
    Gröhe also said he wants health insurance companies to cover costs if patients can't be helped in any other way.
    Still, Marlene Mortler, the country's federal drug commissioner cautioned that marijuana should not be considered completely safe.
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    "The use of cannabis as a medicine within narrow limits is useful and should be explored in more detail," Mortler said. "At the same time, cannabis is not a harmless substance, a legalization for private pleasure is not the aim and purpose of this. It is intended for medical use only."
    The move comes as a number of countries have begun loosening laws regarding marijuana use, both recreationally and medically.
    Amsterdam in the neighboring Netherlands is famous for its lax marijuana laws.
    Across the Pacific, Canada's health minister said the country would be introducing federal marijuana legislation in the spring of 2017.
    The District of Columbia, Colorado, Washington, Alaska and Oregon in the United States all have approved recreational marijuana use (though it's still a federal crime in the U.S.)
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    And Guam and 24 American states allow some form of medical marijuana use, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.
    Further south, Chile recently planted the largest legal marijuana field in Latin America. In 2013, Uruguay became the first nation to fully legalize marijuana for adult recreational use. The law also endowed the state with the power to regulate the plant's production, distribution and sale.