Harmonisation of EU policy on medicinal cannabis and hemp compounds

Harmonisation of EU policy on medicinal cannabis and hemp compounds

Cannabis policy at the EU level is disjointed, leading to many problems and legal and procedural errors. The types of products allowed and the rules for their use vary greatly. Although the World Health Organisation officially recommended that cannabidiol (CBD) should not be classified as a controlled substance, there are currently no horizontal regulations on the medical or recreational use of cannabis.

On 13 February 2019, Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) adopted a resolution on the use of cannabis for medical purposes. No actions have yet been communicated.

Moreover, free trade agreements allow trade restrictions to be imposed ‘if they are justified by health requirements backed up by scientific research’. This is also the case in the context of CBD.

On 10 September 2020, Polish Member of the European Parliament Robert Biedron of the Group of the Progressive Alliance of Socialists and Democrats tabled a written parliamentary question to the European Commission. MEP Biedron asked “what is the state of ply as regards the drafting of a legislative proposal?” and “does the Commission intend to maintain restrictions on CBD products against the backdrop of the WHO’s recommendation?”

Lastly, MEP Biedron also enquired “do the annual work programmes adopted under the current EU Health Programme address the issue of levelling the playing field in respect of access to medical cannabis?”

On 23 November, Health and Food Safety Commissioner Stella Kyriakides responded on behalf of the European Commission. In her answer, she stated that “the EU legal framework on medicinal products does not prevent a cannabis-based product to receive an authorisation to be placed on the market as a medicinal product” and “such products fall under the same data requirements as any other medicinal products to support quality, safety and efficacy”.

Commissioner Kyriakides explained that “the Commission does not consider any change for the moment in the applicable framework” and that “in the absence of a request for the marketing authorisations, many Member States grant access to the medicinal cannabis to named patients on a basis of a prescription”. She also added that “the Commission is reflecting on the possible qualification of cannabidiol (CBD) products as food”.

Commissioner Kyriakides stated that “according to Regulation (EC) No 178/2002, food shall not include medicinal products and narcotic or psychotropic substances as defined by the applicable International Drug Control Conventions”. She also declared that “the World Health Organisation (WHO) acknowledges that, currently, CBD ‘is controlled both as a preparation of cannabis and as an extract or tincture’” and reported that “the Commission adopted on 16 October 2020 a proposal for a Union position for the reconvened 63rd session of the Commission on Narcotic Drugs where the WHO recommendations concerning the scheduling of cannabis and cannabis-related substances under the Conventions will be voted upon”.

Finally, Commissioner Kyriakides concluded that “no action on access to medical cannabis has been initiated under the current Health Programme (2014-2020) and its respective annual work programmes either through a call for projects or call for tenders”.

Photo Credit : https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Flag_of_Europe

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