PRAGUE, Dec 12 (CTK) - Czech patients may soon start using hemp (cannabis)-based medicines as the government plans to include them among legal medical products in an amendment to the law on addictive substances, the daily Lidove noviny (LN) reports today.

So far, the substances from cannabis, mainly its major active substance tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), can be applied in research only on the basis of a permit issued by the Health Ministry. Theoretically, they can be used in a special medical treatment in selected cases, but the ministry says that no one has been treated with hemp extracts yet.

In a number of countries, cannabis-based medicines are commonly applied for instance to attenuate stomach troubles of patients after chemotherapy, or in the treatment of epilepsy, asthma and indigestion.

"With regard to the worldwide rising interest in a possible medical use of hemp, we consider it beneficial to list cannabis among the narcotics that can be used for therapeutical purposes," Vaclav Sebor from the Health Ministry's press section told the paper.

If the government-proposed bill is passed, cannabis-based medicines could be prescribed by doctors and their distribution and use would be registered to prevent any abuse.

Experts dealing with the prevention and treatment of drug addicts have welcomed the intention to use cannabis products.

"It is a positive step as cannabis healing effects have been known for some 1,000 years," Ivan Douda from Drop In centre for drug addicts told the daily.

Vera Cerna from the State Institute for Drug Control (SUKL) said that no products containing cannabis extracts have been registered for the Czech market as yet, and no producer has applied for such a registration either.

Nevertheless, Sebor noted that a foreign product of this kind is being clinically tested in the Czech Republic, but he refused to add any details.

He stressed that the approach to marijuana would not change. Its cultivation and smoking will remain unlawful. The proposed legislation will only enable to use cannabis substances for therapeutic purposes in the form of a medical product and for selected diagnoses, Sebor pointed out.

The production, storage and prescription of cannabis-based medicines will be subject to a strict regime. They would be released on a special prescription with a blue strip and would not be smoked, but administered in a different way, Sebor said.

Both the Health Ministry representatives and drug prevention experts agree that the strict rules will prevent drug addicts from abusing such products.

Under the Czech law, only the possession of a very small amount of cannabis for personal use is legal in the Czech Republic. It equals to 0.3 gram of THC in a dried hemp plant that suffice for some 20 marijuana cigarettes, LN says.