Business of Cannabis reports on the non-event that is French medical cannabis
The future of France’s medical cannabis programme has been thrown into doubt this week as the government failed to introduce any sort of regulatory framework or allocate any funding in its annual budget.
Days later, a group of 17 patients’ associations published a letter in local news publication Le Parisien expressing their concern that the government was now reneging on formal commitments made in 2022, ‘prolonging the suffering of nearly 300,000 patients’.
Government infighting, budgetary issues and an inability of the industry to effectively influence policy mean that this experiment is now highly unlikely to be upgraded into a fully fledged medical cannabis framework in the near future.
However, according to industry expert Benjamin-Alexandre Jeanroy of Paris-based Augur Associates, this is not the final nail in the coffin for medical cannabis in France, but ‘just another minuscule step’.
“It’s disappointing, but the cat will never get back in the box.”
2024 Social Security Financing Bill
France launched its medical cannabis experiment in 2021, offering around 3000 patients free cannabis products with an initial intended run-time of two years.
The trial was intended ‘to evaluate, in a real situation, the recommendations of the committee in terms of prescribing and dispensing conditions and the adherence of health professionals and patients to these conditions’, providing safety and efficacy data as a ‘secondary objective’.
Despite near universally positive feedback from patients, largely expected though this was, France’s Directorate General of Health (DGS) pushed ahead with plans to extend the trial by a minimum of one year without waiting for the results of the trial to be submitted to parliament in September 2022.
Patients and industry stakeholders alike had expected that the experiment would be a near certain precursor to full regulation.
As detailed in the letter from the 17 collective associations: “The commitment made by the government in 2022 was clear: at the end of the experimentation extension period, France would finally legalise medical cannabis to make it accessible to those who need it most.”
However, the publication of France’s Social Security Financing Bill (PLFSS) for 2024, which determines the state’s budgetary allocations for the coming year, made no mention of the medical cannabis project, once again leaving the future of the industry in limbo.