France is to start medical cannabis trials this year
The first medical cannabis trials in France are due to start before the end of this year.
The National Agency for Safety of Medicine has been working with companies such as Dutch firm Bedrocan to see how it could be launched.
Nine out of 10 people want medical cannabis to be legalised, a study of l’Observatoire français des drogues et des toxicomanies has shown.
Prime Minister Edouard Philippe has said it would be “absurd not to think about the possibilities”.
Among the 700,000 daily cannabis users in France, 300,000 say they use it for medical reasons.
In many European countries such as the UK, Germany and the Netherlands, oils, tablets, and dried flowers of cannabis are available on prescription.
Consuming cannabis in France – even for medical reasons – can lead to a year in prison and a fine.
We spoke to two experts with opposing views on legalisation.
Jean-Michel Delile (pictured left), president of the Fédération Addiction
Medicinal properties of cannabis have been known for a long time but the dangers, addiction and psychiatric effects discovered in the 20th century have prohibited its use.
However, some patients have noticed that it can help in certain situations, notably for nausea or loss of appetite, and have asked to be able to use therapeutic cannabis.
The efficacy of medical cannabis is noticeable in some circumstances, for example for epilepsy and cancer.
Patients who undergo chemotherapy often suffer from nausea, loss of appetite and weight loss. Some derivatives of cannabis can be efficient in helping with this. It is also helpful for people suffering from sclerosis.
Therapeutic cannabis can be interesting as a complementary treatment if the traditional treatment path does not work.
It can be used under two forms: one, which is to use the CBD substance, and the other is to use the plant directly, which causes an issue. Smoking it is carcinogenic and we have to think about what has already been done in Europe to find other ways to use it.
In France, we would like to follow up patients to see in which case it works and in which case it does not work.
While cannabis can have positive effects, it can be potentially dangerous. This is the same for every medicine. There is no good or bad molecule.
Morphine is a great pain reliever but it is also an addictive drug that can put people in terrible states. Medical indications are very important.
In Canada, for example, cannabis is available with a medical and individual prescription which follows some indications and the drug is available only in controlled places.
At the moment, some patients smoke cannabis or go to other countries to have access to cannabis medicines but this is unreasonable. We need to find a way to make medical cannabis available for people who need it without putting anyone at risk.
Serge Lebigot (pictured left), president of the Association Parents contre la drogue
The problem is that we have no idea of the efficiency of medical cannabis.
There is not enough feedback and what is surprising is that every medicine has to go through tests and research in France.
Research can take years and lets us see the positive and the negative and the side-effects but for cannabis, we did not do any research. Why would we release a new medicine without knowing its effects?
There is a pro-cannabis ideology supported by some powerful lobbies but we need to think about people’s health and we need proof of what it can do.
The goal of lobbies is financial. By launching medical cannabis, they think they will be able to legalise cannabis for recreational use.
In the US, some states have special pharmacies for cannabis and we can see that it became a nonsense as people get prescriptions from their doctors just to get cannabis for their pleasure.
Among researchers, the opinion is still divided: 50% are for and 50% are against, so before we do anything, we need to show the efficiency. Some trials have started and we should wait for the results.
They can be given in three, five or 10 years. The ministry cannot release medical cannabis on to the public without the results. It would be scandalous.
Cannabis is a psychoactive drug so it should be studied like other medicines under the same rules to be approved.
We already have an excellent product, which is morphine.
We know how efficient it is and we know its side-effects. But nobody knows the side-effects of cannabis as a medicine yet.
Patients who feel they need medical cannabis have other medicines prescribed by their doctor, which are proved to be efficient and suitable for them.
Anyone who wants cannabis has access to it easily. They have it in the street, on the internet. Some travel to Switzerland or the Netherlands. It is dangerous but they know what they are doing.
Each country has its law, which should be respected. But the problem is that there is no European country that has the same law and Europe will never be able to reach a consensus on drugs.