Günther Weiglein is leading the fight for medical marijuana in Germany. But he's probably the last person you'd expect to battle cannabis prohibition in the nation's top courts. In many ways, Weiglein is very much a German everyman.
“I’m just Günther, nothing special,” is usually how he introduces himself. With the exception of the usually cannabis-themed t-shirt, you would think of the Wurzburg resident as just another middle-aged dad, husband and neighbor.
However, these are not the only words you can use to describe Weiglein. When it comes to the world of Teutonic cannabis activism, you can call him the most successful reformer in Germany. A Martin Luther of marijuana, if you will.
While he is not the only patient who has decided that fighting through the courts is the fastest way to medical justice, he is perhaps Deutschland’s best known one. In a legal system without broad right to use the class action route, yet one which sets more or less affordable legal fees for most court interactions, this is the road to access medicinal cannabis in Germany. And Weiglein has pioneered the way.
A Personal Crusade
Weiglein’s story is similar to many other activist-patients around the world. Disabled in a severe motorbike accident in his early thirties, Weiglein decided that cannabinoids, not opioids, were the only way he could manage his new, unwanted companion: chronic pain.
His career as a cannabis activist began when his doctor refused to let him treat his condition with medical marijuana. Now he's at the forefront of the cannabis discussion in Germany, where he's fighting in court for medical marijuana access for all patients. Weiglein's biggest victory happened last year, when he essentially forced the government to help cash-strapped patients by ordering public health insurers to cover the drug when prescribed by a doctor.
His most recent appearance in court was also a victory. Earlier this year, a judge dismissed a fine imposed on Weiglein for home grow of medical cannabis (equivalent to about $450 Canadian dollars) and court fees. It was, in other words, a weak administrative attempt to make him admit minor fault and have the problem go away legally.
“I refused to pay and threatened to appeal if I lost this time,” he told Civilized. The legal skirmish began last year and ended in June 2018, when the judge dismissed the case. As a result, Weiglein helped establish a legal precedent that will prevent other patients from being charged fines when caught growing their own cannabis.
It’s Not All A Bed Of Cannabis Roses
It is a sweet and sour victory. Along the way, Weiglein has also temporarily, also lost his right to grow. “I love to grow,” he says, often wistfully these days. “I connect with the plant.”
He can now get his cannabis prescribed, by a local doctor. He has an activist pharmacy locally on his side.
As a result, he is also changing his tactics, not retiring from the ring. “I see my activism now as trying to get an industrial hemp grow going.” He pauses briefly. “Education. That is really what it comes down to now. More than just words. It’s about showing it is possible, and there is a lot of things that can be done with that kind of project. CBD absolutely.”
The Road Ahead
There is still a long way to go. And Weiglein knows that his most recent victory – overturning a fine imposed for growing his own when he still could not get an approved prescription - was just another pebble along a distinguished, but still unfinished weg (path). Albeit these days one with a lot more definition if not direction.
“Cannabis the theme is a staple in the media now,” said Weiglein. “Before it was an occasional story. Today, there is a national conversation, the politicians are talking about it, and it is an issue. It is going in the right direction.”
A direction that Weiglein, in his own quiet but determined way, is going to continue to influence. And he does so with the assurance that the legalization and normalization of medical cannabis as well as recreational use are on the way.
“What is happening in the US is going to happen here, even if a few years lag time,” he says with his typical Bavarian, straightforwardness. “Let’s face it.”