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The Spanish government gives the green light to medical cannabis

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Medical cannabis activists and patients in Spain had reason to celebrate after the Spanish government’s decision in June to legalize access to medical cannabis for a number of health conditions through the country’s public health system.

Although Spanish scientists for several years have been at the forefront of pioneering cannabis research on cancer and neurodegenerative diseases, obtaining a prescription for standardized and regulated medicinal cannabis products from a doctor has not been on the table in Spain, as the use of the medicinal cannabis plant has not been recognized legally.

So far, patients have found themselves in a somewhat gray legal outback. Some have had access to cannabis from a large number of clubs scattered across the country. Or, if they are so inclined, they may risk growing their own cannabis plants (as long as they are not visible to the public).

Meanwhile, the government was happy to issue licenses to a number of Spanish producers to grow medicinal cannabis – but only for export to other countries such as Germany, Poland and others. United kingdom.

Long road to organization

How did you get to this point?

For seven years, the Spanish Observatory for Medical Cannabis, with President Carola Pérez and Vice President Professor Manuel Guzman at its head, has been persistently meeting with Spanish political parties, most of which until recently were against any regulatory change.

Professor Guzman said to Project Convention on Biological Diversity.

Early signs stem from an overly cautious approach by the ruling Socialist Party (PSOE) suggested that access would be highly restricted, with many known conditions for benefiting from cannabis being excluded from the program. But after some last-minute negotiations, it was agreed that patients with endometriosis, multiple sclerosis, epilepsy, chemotherapy-related nausea and vomiting, cancer pain, and non-cancerous pain (including neuropathic pain) would be eligible.

While it is believed that 300,000 patients in Spain could in principle benefit from the medical cannabis program when it is eventually rolled out, many with conditions such as fibromyalgia, inflammatory bowel disease, cancer-related cachexia and glaucoma will have to continue in buying cannabis. Medicines from cannabis clubs or the illicit market or the cultivation of their own cannabis clubs.

“Everything can be improved,” Guzman admits. “Of course, we would have liked other pointers to be included…but if you had told me two or three years ago what we have now, I would have said it was very good.”

A flower in pharmacies?

For those lucky enough to qualify, it all depends on how the Spanish health agency, which has until the end of the year to set up a medical cannabis programme, interprets the initial draft of the guidelines.

They specify that cannabis-based preparations – including magistral formulas with different THC:Convention on Biological Diversity Ratios – made in pharmacies for individual patients – will be prescribed by medical professionals and distributed by hospital pharmacies, although Guzmán and colleagues at the observatory hope this extends to general practitioners and community pharmacies as well.

Less clear is whether cannabis blossoms, which were not explicitly mentioned in the draft, will be included in the programme, which worries patients, many of whom evaporate the cannabis flower to manage pain and nausea, about future access through regulated channels.

On top of whether the medical cannabis program can realistically be launched within six months, Guzmán believes that its success will depend on the money and resources allocated to it. Physicians need to be educated and trained in cannabis treatments, and products must be available to prescribe and consume. “If there was a regulation but no products or no doctors, it would be useless,” Guzman says.

Who pays?

The cost of a patient’s medical cannabis prescriptions will also be crucial. While Guzmán hopes that the bulk of the cost will be covered by the country’s social security system, the Spanish health agency will ultimately decide where the financial burden falls.

“We[the Medical Cannabis Observatory]have to pay close attention if the main points are met,” he says. “We still have a role to play in this process, but we have to keep watching and be as active as possible to get the best and most generous programming.”

Either way, after a well fought battle, 2023 will be the year some Spanish patients will finally get a legal prescription for cannabis.


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