By Roland Sebestyén
Following a short delay, Olivier Véran, the French Minister of Solidarity and Health, has signed a decree to start a pilot programme, which could eventually supply patients with free medicinal cannabis.
Originally, the launch was planned to go ahead in 2020 but, due to the Coronavirus pandemic, it’s been pushed back until early 2021, the ministry and the French Medicines Agency (ANSM) announced over the summer.
The pilot would run for about six months and involve around 3,000 patients suffering from severe conditions, such as chronic pain and epilepsy.
Now, as the regulatory work is done and the application requirements for companies and organisations have been published this week, the next step is to pick the suppliers. The deadline for those interested in participating is 24 November.
While some believed that one of the benefits of this programme was that the suppliers might be able to be the first ones on the cannabis market once the French authorities legalise the drug, the decree stated otherwise.
Furthermore, it’s going to be a closely monitored scheme while the suppliers should fill in a number of forms, and they will be evaluated by a point system.
Marijuana Business Daily claimed the first prescription was expected by the end of March 2021. To be eligible, only patients with the following diseases and conditions would be able to participate in the pilot programme:
Refractory neuropathic pain, certain forms of drug-resistant epilepsy, certain intractable symptoms in oncology linked to cancer or anticancer treatment, palliative situations, painful spasticity from multiple sclerosis or other pathologies of the central nervous system.
According to the ministry, cannabis would be given to patients in the form of dried cannabis flowers and oils.
Experts believed the programme could be a massive step ahead because, as shown on our map, medicinal cannabis is not entirely accessible in the country.
Whereas the French authorities have a somewhat different tone when it comes to the drug’s presumed medicinal benefits, in reality, cannabis is only allowed to be consumed with a prescription by doctors and health professionals.
Furthermore, all products must be approved by the National Medical Safety Agency (NMSA). If the pilot programme worked, it might result in a more relaxed approach to the drug in the future.
While full legalisation still seems far from now, under Emmanuel Macron, the French President, progress is clearly being made.