French Health Ministry Announces Plans for Medical Cannabis ‘Experimentation’

Doctors will be able to recommend low-THC strains for patients with a qualifying condition.
French Health Ministry Announces Plans for Medical Cannabis 'Experimentation'
Tinnakorn Jorruang/ Shutterstock

France is taking tentative steps towards the legalization of medical marijuana. The Senate voted by a large majority to approve the use of experimental medical cannabis for two years, which should make it available to 300,000 to one million patients, according to advocacy groups.

When and the country’s health ministry approves the plan, there will be serious supply chain issues. As the legislation did not legalize cannabis production in the country, marijuana for the trial period will need to be sourced from outside France. As reported by a France 24 article, the cannabis that will be recommended to patients will be of a low THC variety.

The governmental agency that is overseeing the program has identified cancer, some types of epilepsy, multiple sclerosis, and palliative care as potential qualifying health conditions that would allow doctors to prescribe the medicine through the plan. Also on the list is chronic pain that is unresponsive to other kinds of treatment — in fact, doctors have been advised that the recommendation of medical cannabis is to be regarded as a last resort in the treatment of health problems.

An expert committee commissioned by the National Agency for the Safety of Health Products will be determining the logistics of how patients will get their marijuana. It will be led by Nicolas Authier of the Clermont-Ferrand University Hospital Centre pain clinic.

Authier sees the two year trial period as a potential entree into other forms of access. “The question of legalisation won’t come up before 2021, and only following this experiment,” he commented.

Officials say there will be a lightening quick turnaround for the process, which they hope to get off the ground within the next few weeks.

All the same, there is some agitation for laws that widen access even further. National Assembly member and Jean-Baptiste Moreau of the La République En Marche! party has expressed his interest in the possibility of legalizing recreational marijuana, and has even applied for a permit for his district in the past to produce medical use marijuana. “For now, we are talking about medical cannabis, but eventually we will have to consider wellness cannabis [oils, vitamins and supplements with very low levels of THC],” he said.

In France, a full third of the adult population — 11 percent of people from 18 to 64 years old — have been found to smoke marijuana by the French Observatory for Drugs and Drug Addiction. A survey by Statista that focused on behavior from 2015 to 2017 found that 11 percent of the country’s citizenry admitted to smoking within the past year.

Europe is one of the world’s regional leaders in marijuana access. Cannabis has been legalized in Spain and the Netherlands, and decriminalized in Switzerland, Portugal, Luxembourg, and Belgium. England is experimenting with a medical marijuana system, which has not been without its institutional issues so far.

France lowered fines for cannabis possession in 2018. Small amounts of marijuana are now subject to a fine of 150 to 200 euros. Currently, it is illegal to sell cannabis in France with over 0.2 percent THC.

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