Edit: The European Parliament’s Committee on the Environment, Public Health and Food Safety has delayed the vote citing a busy agenda on Tuesday 11th December. More details to follow.
On Friday, the WHO announced that it will postpone its decision on the rescheduling of cannabis. Despite the declaration from Vienna, the European Parliament’s Committee on the Environment, Public Health and Food Safety has decided it will vote on a resolution to regulate medical cannabis today.
After years of advocacy efforts, MEPs will vote on a resolution to review the current legislative state of cannabis and increase funding for scientific research. The proposal will also set out a draft European policy for the regulation of medical cannabis.
“This resolution changes the narrative of danger into something useful for patients,” claimed an expert on European affairs. “This is a recommendation, or an indicative law for Member States”, which means that it does not strictly oblige a country to implement it.
However, the resolution proposes a complete system to regulate medical cannabis, which would result in additional resources for public health officials and increased access for patients while limiting the influence of the black market.
“We were surprised by the political will of the majority of European parliamentarians to move quickly on the issue of the legalisation of medical cannabis.”
Guillaume Balas, Member of the European Parliament and one of the signatories of the resolution.
Although there is no harmonised European legislation on cannabis, drug approval at the EU level is conducted by the European Medicines Agency (EMA). But despite the existence of the EMA, most member states still rely upon their national agencies (i.e. ANSM for France, or MHRA for the UK) for drug approval on a national level.
Financing European research
The resolution highlights the lack of funds committed to medical cannabis research and proposes additional funding under the Horizon Europe programme, which determines the research agenda between 2021 and 2027.
“The lack of reliable, large-scale clinical studies is one of the key factors that is holding back patient access,” says Dr. Henry Fisher, Scientific Director at Hanway Associates. The research directly affects the confidence of health professionals and medical regulators in cannabis-based medicines.
France between two chairs
In France, the National Agency for the Safety of Medicines and Health Products (ANSM) formed a committee in September to assess the need for medical cannabis in the country. The committee is set to announce its first results at the end of 2018.
Just a few days ago, on 26th November, the Ethics and Cancer Committee considered it “unethical not to allow a woman with cancer to have cannabis that relieves her of her pain.”
Currently, only two products are allowed in France; Marinol, restricted by a complex access programme, and Sativex, approved in 2014 but embargoed as a result of pricing disputes.
Cannabis Discussions at the National Assembly
With the number of patients eligible for medical cannabis estimated to be over one million, the current situation clearly fails the needs of French patients. The EU resolution is an opportunity for French policy makers to broaden the coalition for medical cannabis in both France and Europe.
On Wednesday, 5th December, a roundtable discussion on the legalisation of medical cannabis was held in the National Assembly. French political representatives Eric Correia, Olivier Veran, Jean-Baptiste Moreau and Guillaume Balas took the floor to defend the rights of patients to access cannabis-based medicines in France.
During the debate, the MEP Guillaume Balas told attendees: “the pain of patients should not be taboo.”
Join us in Paris on 8th February 2019 to further this exchange of ideas. European and French policymakers, scientific and economic partners of the cannabis sector, and the best and brightest in the industry will gather at the Maison de la Chimie, a stone’s throw from the National Assembly, to shape the future of European medical cannabis.
Purchase tickets today.
To read this article in French, click here.