While there are only two countries in the world that legalized commercial production of cannabis for adult use so far – the United States and Canada, with Mexico set to become the third – medical cannabis has faced less legal obstacles.
This article provides an overview of the most active European countries in terms of research and the adoption of cannabis for medical purposes.
Europe: pushing medical cannabis forward
So far, European countries have shown the most progressive approach to medical cannabis. Currently, the consumption of marijuana and its active components (THC and CBD) in various forms for medical purposes is legal in 22 European countries (see the full list below).
In general, the countries where recreational cannabis is illegal (for instance, the United Kingdom), also practice a much stricter approach to its medical use: registered specialist doctors are allowed to prescribe cannabis only for select ailments, like severe epilepsy, chemotherapy consequences or multiple sclerosis. However, this is not always the rule: Italy, where cannabis is decriminalized, has a strict policy towards medical cannabis.
In addition to the list, six countries – Austria, Belgium, France, Slovenia, Spain, Romania – have only legalized selected cannabis-based pharmaceuticals.
Next steps: increasing supply
Despite cannabis being legal for selected medical use cases, patients in many European countries, including the UK, patients are still struggling from the lack of supply, high prices and social stigma around marijuana.
Germany is one of the most progressive European countries in terms of cannabis treatments. However, it does not have enough growing facilities and is unable to provide for the rising demand. Right now Germany is fully dependent on imported medical marijuana, having imported around 2500 kilograms on cannabis in the first half of 2019 only.
For less progressive countries recent import agreements seem to be a huge advancement.
Just last week Canadian cannabis producer and the world’s largest publicly traded cannabis company Canopy Growth was granted permission to import medical cannabis in its distribution center in the United Kingdom.
This July 2019 another Canadian cannabis giant Aurora signed an agreement to supply Italy with at least 400 kilograms of medical cannabis.
Europe has also been seeing progress in terms of further scientific research. It was recently announced that a major £1.2million clinical study in the UK will look into the effect of cannabidiol (CBD) treatments on Parkinson-related psychosis that over 60% of patients with this diagnosis suffer from.
French National Agency on Drug Safety, which currently allows only several cannabis-based drugs, in July 2019 approved clinical trials, which will research the cannabis in certain medical conditions.
During the past two years Europe has been taking active steps of the way to adoption of medical cannabis, facilitated by the recognition of its properties for the treatment of various ailments, including neurological diseases, epilepsia, alleviation of chemotherapy-related nausea, pain syndromes.
Despite certain social stigma around marijuana that still persists in European society, local governments has proven to be rather open to research, followed by changes in legislation.
The situation is yet far from perfect: the demand already exceeds supply in the main European countries, and they are currently not able to provide cannabis production on the needed level due to remaining regulatory difficulties. Thus, they rely heavily on the import from Canada – the world’s pioneers of medical and recreational cannabis. Generally, lack of supply means business opportunities for producers and supply chain operators.
The growing demand and further scientific research, aimed at proving cannabis efficiency on larger data, hint that European countries are positive towards medical cannabis, and we might expect further growth of this industry.
Moreover, the legalization of medical cannabis is frequently regarded as the sign for upcoming full legalization of marijuana for recreational use – but that is certainly further on the timeline.
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Head of Analytics at Stobox