This week, the French government released a highly anticipated decree that outlines how they will be carrying out a medical cannabis experiment that will last two years, starting March 31st, 2021. The decree also stated that a maximum of 3,000 patients will be participating in the trials.
The trial will involve companies who will be supplying the cannabis to patients for free, though the cannabis needs to meet specific pharmaceutical standards. Most of these are outlined in the Good Manufacturing Practice. Additionally, France’s Ministry of Health and Solidarity will be responsible for regulating the project’s execution. Then it will be the general director for the French Agency for the Safety of Medicines and Health Products who will determine certain aspects of the project and oversee technical specifications of the cannabis medicine, the conditions for which doctors can prescribe cannabis for during the experiment, and the procedures involved for import, storage, distribution and regulation of cannabis.
According to university professor and chairman of the scientific committee on cannabis, Nicolas Authier, there will be “an invitation to tender for the selection of cannabis-based products” which will be proposed within the coming days. He also adds that the suppliers “will probably be foreign… in collaboration with pharmaceutical laboratories established in France and licensed for narcotics,” he disclosed to Marijuana Business Daily.
“Five more months of work before the first prescriptions, but France is now officially committed to access to medical cannabis,” Authier says.
The black market for cannabis in Spain makes it all too easy for criminals to thrive given the absence of tourism, with a low risk for jail sentence not exceeding two years, and high margins to be made. For this reason, European gangs are at war with one another to dominate the market, reports The Guardian. In fact, due to the pandemic, the cannabis market is one of the few remaining industries that are actually thriving.
In the last year alone, police have discovered 34 organized crime divisions that are linked up by cannabis, and they have also destroyed 319 cannabis plantations. According to an internal report by the Catalan cops, the Mossos d’Esquadra, Catalonia has become the hub of the European illegal cannabis market and even exports to other countries in the continent.
The report outlines other reasons why the black market has succeeded so well in Europe over the last few months, citing social acceptance, empty properties, and depopulated rural areas. The police have found several indoor plantations that utilize automated and remote-controlled environments, as well as odorless plants in order to avoid getting caught.
Ramon Chacon, the deputy chief for the crime squad, says that: “When we look at what has happened to other countries that are primary drug producers, such as hashish in Morocco or cocaine in Colombia, there’s cause for concern.” For a while now, Spain has been the main entry point for Moroccan hashish into the continent, which is why the distribution mechanisms were already in place long before the cannabis boom. Additionally, the cost for cannabis is just 5 euros a gram, a third of the average price in Europe.
Back in 2017, Germany legalized medical cannabis and has since then saw a massive spike in demand. Experts now believe Germany has the potential to be the largest medical cannabis market in Europe.
Recent data from the National Association of Statutory Health Insurance Funds (GKV) reveals that year on year growth of the MMJ market continues to increase. They also note that sales of flower are under half of the total sales, while sales of full-spectrum extracts as well as magistral preparations containing Dronabinol see an increase. GKV members subsidize public insurance for 90% of the country’s population, and they have just shared valuable data for 2020 Q2 sales, report Prohibition Partners.
They attribute other reasons for growth such as more doctors and patients who are willing to use cannabis to treat several conditions. They see this trend continuing since more German patients will become educated in the near future, and the use of cannabis is seen as the norm. Additionally, medical practitioners have the confidence to use cannabis because they have a stable supply of the drug, as well as a well-established consensus that cannabinoids are indeed beneficial for treating several ailments.
Despite the fact that there is year on year growth, Q2 wasn’t as strong as Q1 but this can be caused by the lockdown or other seasonal factors. However, it was noteworthy that the applications for insured medical cannabis have reached 100,000 this year, a milestone for the GKV. Out of these, 62% have already been approved, according to data from Marijuana Business Daily.
Europe has a much larger population compared to the USA and Canada combined, yet its growth levels are seen as lagging. Germany accounts for 0.1% of the overall population that is accessing MMJ through their healthcare system, but other nations still don’t allow medical use of cannabis.
Another reason why Europe continues to lag behind is that it still doesn’t enjoy the same political and cultural synchronicity of laws, which Canadian provinces and American states have. Most public majorities already favor the legalization of medical cannabis but this isn’t reflected in the political arena which is necessary to handle the issue.
It seems that most European governments prefer to take a moderate view on drug policies; they also prefer to leave it to bureaucratic measures and expert committees for advice instead of working on a reform. But that is merely a generalization, since countries that are known for strong democracies such as Switzerland are already paving the way for cannabis reform that the rest of the continent can follow.
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