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France extends therapeutic cannabis trials for an extra year

Patients with certain severe illnesses can continue to access cannabis-based medicinal products with a prescription until March 2024

A scientist in gloves, glasses and goggles looks at a hemp plant

France has extended a trial giving patients access to therapeutic cannabis for another year Pic: Kitreel / Shutterstock

Medical cannabis is to be made available for patients with some severe illnesses and conditions such as medicine-resistant epilepsy for another year in France after the government prolonged a trial into its use until March 2024.

Under the trial, which started in October 2020, patients with the following diseases can be given a prescription for cannabis-based medicines in approved hospitals:

  • certain forms of severe and drug-resistant epilepsy

  • certain unmanageable symptoms in oncology

  • nerve pain unresponsive to accessible therapies

  • palliative situations

  • painful spasticity in central nervous system pathologies

Read More: Medical cannabis trials in France show promise

Patients must consent to take part in the trial. They are then given a 28-day prescription which must be used within three days in the participating hospital pharmacy or at a local pharmacy if it has agreed to take part in the trial and where pharmacists have received prior training.

The therapeutic cannabis, including both delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabidiol (CBD), can be prescribed in two forms:

  • As dried flowers or granules for inhalation

  • As an oil or capsule to swallow.

France’s official medicines authority the ANSM lists the 215 reference centres which have been selected to take part in the trial. So far around 3,000 patients have participated, reports FranceTV.

Cannabis consumption in France

Cannabis consumption in France outside of the trial remains illegal, which can be punished with an on-the-spot fine of €200.

However, according to France’s drug observatory Observatoire Français des Drogues et des Tendances Addictives in 2021 47.3 % of adults aged 18 to 64 years said they had taken cannabis but only 10.6% are regular users. 

Users usually start taking the drug between the ages of 18 and 25. The proportion of lifetime cannabis users peaks between the ages of 26 and 34, regardless of gender. 

Current use still primarily concerns the youngest adult population (23.5% of 18–25-year-olds). Although it then decreases with age, the profile of consumers is diversifying, with more people in their forties taking the drug.

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