France is thinking about legalizing medical marijuana. But just to make sure that giving people legal access to an herb specifically for its therapeutic function will not cause some twisted upheaval to the social order, the country plans to conduct a medicinal cannabis experiment in the near future that will continue for the next couple of years.
At the end of May, the French Senate approved marijuana for medicinal use. It is a move that is expected to give somewhere between 30,000 to 1 million patients suffering from severe pain the ability to purchase the herb. But rather than enter into its new medical marijuana program blindly, government officials are going to try ironing out all of the unknowns before the first patient walks through the door.
The country intends to use this deep exploration into the cannabis sect to learn more about how the industry itself will work, as well as identify any opportunities to expand the proposed list of qualified conditions.
“There will be about two years of experimentation with therapeutic cannabis,” Professor Nicolas Authier, the leading pharmacologist at Clermont-Ferrand University Hospital Centre’s pain clinic, told FRANCE 24.
All that is left before this research gets underway is final approval from the Health Ministry.
A Wide Spectrum of Conditions
It should be pointed out, however, that France’s medical marijuana program is going to be fairly restrictive, at least in the beginning. So don’t expect to see marijuana sold in those Parisian coffee shops.
Last December, a scientific committee controlled by the French National Agency for the Safety of Medicines and Health recommended that medical marijuana be approved for some patients as an alternative to traditional treatments. On paper, this cleared patients with chronic pain that are unresponsive to existing therapies, certain kinds of epilepsy, and multiple sclerosis for the use of medicinal cannabis. The committee also designated access for cancer patients and a few others.
It was expected, at the time, that legislative action would eventually unfold as a result of the committee’s assessment. The fact that it only took six months to get some kind of medical marijuana program endorsed by lawmakers is a relatively decent sign that the country is at least open to the concept of cannabis medicine.
As of now, patients in France can only get their hands on Marinol (synthetic THC) and a drug manufactured by GW Pharmaceuticals known as Sativex. These drugs are often prescribed to cancer patients as a means for control vomiting that stems from chemotherapy treatment and neuropathic pain in patients with multiple sclerosis.
Customized Strains for Medical Customers
Unlike the majority of the medical marijuana sold in the United States, officials in France say their version of the herb will not be something that recreational users would appreciate. The country is apparently set to produce a lower-strength strain for this program. It will be so weak, in fact, that Authier says it will not “satisfy those looking for psychoactive effects.” We know, this is bad news for those hooligan vapers.
Authier went on to explain that medical marijuana will not be a one-size fits all sort of development. All of the medicine will be customized according to the patient’s needs. “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.
Although France will launch its own cultivation centers for this fact-finding mission, the cannabis products used in the beginning of this process will most likely be imported from other countries. Authier admits that the country has a lot to learn about growing weed. “It isn’t conventional agriculture,” he said.
The experiment is set to get underway in the coming weeks, according to Jean-Baptiste Moreau — an MP representing France’s La République En Marche! party. But it is going to be a long road before marijuana goes legal.
“The question of legalization won’t come up before 2021, and only following this experiment,” Authier said.
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