The third week of January brings fresh signs that wide-spread cannabis reform is afoot across the European Union. Several countries are already announcing that this year will probably be a watershed year for reform both on a country-by-country basis as well as a regional one, although so far, it appears that medical reform will be first on the agenda.
On January 17, medical marijuana finally went on sale in Polish pharmacies. Until October, when Canadian cannabis company Aurora received a first-of-its-kind license to ship the drug to a hospital, Polish patients had to import the drug themselves. This proved, of course, to be prohibitive for the vast majority of potential patients, starting with cost.
While there is no fixed list for medical use under Polish law, doctors will have wide latitude in what conditions to prescribe cannabis for. That said, most early patients are expected to be chronic pain patients who suffer from cancer, migraines, multiple sclerosis, and epilepsy. They will be able to redeem the same at regulated pharmacies across the country.
Pharmacies will place orders directly from wholesalers who will not keep the drug on site.
Two bills have now been introduced into the Portuguese Parliament to legalize cannabis for recreational use. The Left Bloc (BE) version calls for sales to be legal in licensed establishments that specialize in cannabis. The People-Animals-Nature (PAN) party has, in contrast, advocated for a solution where cannabis would be sold exclusively in pharmacies. Both parties have as their goal that the industry in Portugal be regulated for the purposes of human safety. This includes an age limit (only those over 18 would qualify to buy the drug), and those without a history of mental illness. Both bills advocate also for the right of home grow, with such plants grown from seeds that are acquired in licensed facilities.
As of January 15, the medical use law in Portugal, as well as the right to export the drug was formalized by official publication of the government documenting the passage of new laws – the Republic Journal.
The tiny country in the center of the EU announced last year that it planned to legalize recreational use as the first in the EU to do so. However, the country is also looking to Canada for guidelines on how to proceed from medical to recreational market.
In mid-January, the country’s Health Minister, Etienne Schneider announced that 150 GPs would receive specialist training in prescribing the drug to patients suffering from chronic pain, neurodegenerative diseases, and cancer, among others. The country has also embarked on a two year medical trial test period, after which cannabinoid medications will be made available at national pharmacies. This means that despite the stated move to legalize recreational use, it is unlikely that the drug will become available for recreational use before then.
Experts from across Europe will gather to discuss the pace and state of cannabis reform across the continent at the International Cannabis Business Conference events being held t in Barcelona with Spannabis on March 14th, Berlin from March 31st to April 2nd, and Zurich with CannaTrade on May 15th-16th. The ICBC also has conferences planned for San Francisco, California, USA, on February 7th-8th and Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada on September 15th-16th.