Support in Spanish parliament for medical cannabis regulation

by Lorraine Williamson

MADRID – If all goes as expected, the Spanish government will regulate the use of cannabis for medicinal purposes on June 23. For the time being, however, this is a proposal from the Health Commission to the government. 

After years of waiting and claiming, medical cannabis users – an estimated 300,000 in Spain – are seeing light at the end of the tunnel of self-diagnosis, home remedies, and the black market. 

Therefore, the associations representing patients demanded that the users of medicinal cannabis be put at the centre of the debate. Also, some of the people responsible for other countries’ medicinal programs and doctors and psychiatrists had their say. 

The regulation proposal is still a document with no legal value of its own. However, if it gets a majority of the House, the next natural step for the government is to enact it. 

Patients and experts weigh in 

“Cannabis is a safe substance for the patient, not only taking into account the experience observed at the Spanish Observatory of Medicinal Cannabis (OECM) but from studies showing that cannabis is safer than other neuroactive substances used in both recreational and medical environments are used.” That is what professor Manuel Guzmán of OECM says. This association advocates regulation that in any case includes standardised preparations of cannabis and, ideally, self-cultivation. 

More clarity on June 23 

The PSOE is due to submit a regulatory proposal by May 30, and the other parties have 10 days to make their contributions. The next two weeks are to debate and agree on a text and validate it in the Health Committee on June 23. 

Inconsistency in current policy 

The hearings also highlighted the apparent inconsistency of Spain allowing – and increasingly licensing – the cultivation of cannabis for medicinal purposes, but only for export: what is grown in the country can only be sold abroad.  

The urgency of regulation emphasised 

On the last day, another proponent of regulation intervened. President Noemi Sánchez is President of the European Observatory for the Consumption and Cultivation of Cannabis (OECCC). She is also a Doctor of Neuroscience. She defended “a law with several avenues of entry. These included individual and collective self-growth, as well as low-cost phytopharmaceuticals”. Sánchez, herself is a medical cannabis user and a multiple sclerosis patient. Therefore, she emphasised the urgency of regulation for some patients who say they can’t wait any longer. 

More lax regulation needed 

However, it must be made clear who should prescribe medicinal cannabis. And, furthermore, which products will be legal and who can use them. Associations such as the OECM are arguing for a somewhat more lax regulation that would allow the use of cannabis oils, standardised preparations, or master formulas that can be made for each patient in ad hoc pharmacies. 

Not so clear 

The PSOE, which is responsible for drafting the proposal, is not so clear. However, the proposal can be amended later by the different groups. “The roadmap is legal and health security, [issuance] on medical prescription and under the umbrella of the Spanish Agency for Medicines and Health Products (AEMPS). Anything dispensed to a person must have a medical prescription and the drugs must be proposed and approved by AEMPS.” 

A lot of support for the proposal 

Most parties in parliament are in favour of regulation, with Vox already vehemently opposed and the PP probably too. However, a clear statement has not yet been made about it. Expectations are high because. However, if there is no regulation, this would be a major setback for a large group of people. The reality is that according to the aforementioned associations in Spain, 300,000 patients use cannabis on the black market. 

Debate in Spain is ideological 

A circumstance that arises in the Spanish case and which surprises both patients and some MEPs – especially those in favour of the regulation – is that in Spain the debate is marked by the left-right axis. Except for the PNV and the unknown number of Catalan nationalists from Junts and the PDeCAT, the left supports the regulation and the right rejects it. “This issue should not be a left or right issue,” Muñoz said. “It’s a health issue”. The PP leans towards a “no” because the party deems the evidence regarding the medicinal value of cannabis insufficient. 

Role cannabis clubs 

Another thing that remains to be resolved is the role that will remain for the cannabis clubs and associations. According to the PSOE’s stance, it does not appear that the legal limbo in which they find themselves will change in this normative movement. Parties such as UP or organisations such as the OECCC have asked, however, parties such as UP or organisations such as the OECCC have requested “that the peculiarities of the Spanish case be taken into account, such as the widespread of home cultivation and cannabis clubs”. 

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