In Strasbourg on Tuesday, the European Parliament gathered to debate the use of medical cannabis. On Wednesday, representatives from the European Union’s 28 Member States will vote on a motion for a resolution on cannabis for medicinal purposes, a move that comes on the heels of the World Health Organization’s proposal to remove cannabis from Schedule IV of the 1961 UN Convention.
Coupled with this development at the UN level, the EU’s “motion is revealing of the [now] quasi-universal acknowledgement of medical cannabis as a legitimate therapeutic avenue,” said Juan Fernández Ochoa, a spokesperson with the International Drug Policy Consortium.
“I find it remarkable that this motion for a resolution on medical cannabis has been tabled by Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) coming from a very broad range of ideological backgrounds,” Fernández Ochoa wrote in an email to Cannabis Wire (to table legislation means to introduce it). Support for the resolution includes the conservative European People’s Party, the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe and the left-leaning United Left-Nordic Green Left.
Still, Fernández Ochoa emphasized, the motion is for a non-binding resolution, not a directive/regulation by which the EU harmonizes legislation. As a result, the approval of the motion will not translate into immediate wide-ranging law. However, if the motion succeeds, he said, it “could, for instance, galvanise the Commission or the Council and even Member States to dedicate more resources into, say, research/cooperation.” If very popular, Fernández Ochoa concluded, the motion could ultimately lead to the introduction of a legislative proposal on medical cannabis at the EU level.
Citing the WHO’s recent recommendation yesterday, Estefanía Torres of Spain, a member of the United Left-Nordic Green Left and one of the MEPs who tabled the motion, tweeted: “We need to regulate it now. It is unthinkable that terminal patients currently suffer social stigmatization just for battling against chronic pain.”
In a recent interview with HRT4, Croatian MEP Dubravka Šuica, a member of the European People’s Party who also tabled the motion, said that fear of misuse “must not be our reason for not allowing medical cannabis to be used.” Harvesting cannabis, she added, “should be relaxed in some way because there is a great amount of patients today, not only in Croatia but in the rest of the EU.”
“Just look at the cancer statistics,” Šuica said. “There are other illnesses like multiple-sclerosis and so on. In my opinion, it is necessary to make sure access for everyone”
“But I would not want my personal commitment for cannabis to be taken as an intimation for youth’s recreational use,” she said. “I am absolutely against it.”
Key takeaways from the 18-point motion:
- Points out that the term “medical cannabis” is “largely undefined from a legal point of view” and “remains ambiguous and open to interpretation”
- Calls for “independent research, development, authorisation, marketing and pharmacovigilance,” emphasizing the need for the standardization of products
- Calls on Member States to reconsider legislation on the use of cannabis-based medicines “when scientific research proves that the same positive effect cannot be achieved by using ordinary medicines that do not have addictive effects”
- Stresses the importance of close cooperation and coordination with the World Health Organization (WHO)
Translation for this piece was provided by Jelena Ćulibrk, a PhD student at USC.