The European Union has taken a big step towards creating a formalized set of laws for governing medicinal cannabis within the bloc.
Members of the European Parliament’s health committee on Tuesday adopted a resolution, which is the first step necessary to drafting legislation, designed to better support the industry.
The directly elected legislative members called for “properly funded” scientific research in the non-binding motion, and will seek to incentivize member states to advance study of medical marijuana, prioritizing scientific research and clinical studies.
Cannabis Law Report revealed in January the EU is preparing to create a set of medicinal cannabis guidelines that will apply across all member states in an effort to stop regulatory arbitrage occurring as different countries steam ahead with their own legislation.
Several EU countries have already legalised the medical use of some form of cannabis or cannabinoids or are considering changes to their legislation, in a bid to capture a multi-billion dollar industry.
The rules on which products are allowed and how they should be used vary widely, although no EU country authorises the smoking or home-growing of cannabis for medical purposes.
Recently, the World Health Organization officially recommended that the cannabis compound cannabidiol (CBD) should not be classified as a controlled substance, rolling back decades of red tape.
Presently there are no EU-wide rules for either the medical or recreational use of cannabis.
During the EU debate, members said that cannabis and cannabinoids may have therapeutic effects in stimulating appetite (for weight loss linked to Aids) and in alleviating the symptoms of mental disorders or epilepsy, asthma, cancer and Alzheimer’s, amongst other illnesses.
It could also help to ease menstrual pain and reduce the risks of obesity and diabetes, they said, agreeing that much more research is necessary.
In the resolution, Parliament is asking for a legal definition of medical cannabis in order to clearly distinguish it from other uses.
It also says that research and innovation on medical cannabis should be strengthened and properly funded, while effective cannabis-based medication should be covered by health insurance schemes.
MEPs said a stable and clear legal framework would improve the quality of medical cannabis and the accuracy of its labelling. Patients would be able to use it safely, with particular precautions in place for young people and pregnant women, they said.
At EU level, legal rules would help to control points of sale and limit the black market, while preventing substance abuse and addiction among minors and vulnerable groups, according to the resolution.
In addition comprehensive rules would encourage better knowledge about medical cannabis, by ensuring training and access to literature for medical professionals.
“MEPs call on member states to allow doctors to use their professional judgement in prescribing cannabis-based medicines,” the Parliament’s press service said. When effective, these medicines are to be covered by health insurance schemes in the same way as other types of medicine, members said.
“The regulation of cannabis-based medicines would translate into additional revenue for public authorities, would limit the black market and ensure quality and accurate labelling,” the statement added.
The Parliament’s press service also included a handy table for the uneducated, entitled “What is cannabis?” Which we have reprinted below.
What is cannabis?
- The cannabis plant is made up of more than 480 compounds, including more than 100 cannabinoids, the best known being THC (D9-tetrahydrocannabinol) and cannabidiol (CBD)
- THC is the main psychoactive and addictive constituent of cannabis; CBD has no intoxicating or addictive properties
- The medical use of cannabis and cannabinoids can refer to a wide variety of plant-based and synthetic preparations and products
- Many countries use the Mexican term marijuana to refer to cannabis leaves. The unpollinated female plants are called hashish