Malta’s largest pro-cannabis legalisation group, ReLeaf, were invited to a major discussion on the future of medical cannabis in the European Parliament, and have said that Malta is way ahead of the rest of Europe when it comes to medical cannabis rights
“ReLeaf accepted the invitation because of the importance of such an event in order to discuss the best way forward and introduce harmonised cannabis laws across the continent,” Graziella Calleja, ReLeaf co-founder, told Lovin Malta.
Foreign attendees were impressed with the massive strides Malta had made in recent years when it came to giving patients the right to access medical cannabis.
“There is a great thirst for knowledge and information from different kinds of people, be they medical experts or patients or MEPs or policy makers. The secretariat and the panel were speaking about the importance of fair access to medical cannabis and for this medicine to be affordable as they are aware of how expensive it is,” she said.
Malta legalised medical cannabis in March 2018, and since then over 100 patients have applied and been prescribed medical cannabis in Malta and Gozo.
“During the event the speakers didn’t speak about specific countries, but rather on Europe as a whole. However, when I was speaking with participants from other countries, they were not aware that Malta legalised and there was a sense that Malta is way ahead when compared to other European governments,” she said.
Speakers pointed out how some European countries, such as Lithuania, Hungary, and Belgium itself, still have strict laws against any use of cannabis.
MEP Guillaume Balas (S&D, FR) together with Cannabis Europe, a patient-driven coalition, organised the event “Ensuring fair access to medical cannabis for patients in Europe” at the European Parliament
The purpose of the event was to address the regulatory obstacles patients experience in accessing medical cannabis while discussing possible solutions at European level.
“Cannabis-derived medicines and cannabis preparations are recognised for their therapeutic effects. They are used in the treatment of a wide range of diseases, disorders and symptoms (e.g. multiple sclerosis, seizures, depression). They are also instrumental in relieving patients from treatment-induced pain like nausea, e.g. in the case of cancer therapies,” the group said.
“Yet, despite growing awareness and interest within the patient and the medical communities, the regulatory framework for medical cannabis remains fragmented across the European Union. This lack of harmonisation is detrimental to European patients and hampers their access to affordable, high-quality, cannabis-derived products for medical use, they continued.
“Patients can have great benefit from medical cannabis to treat diseases and/or alleviate their pain. Scientific and experience based evidence demonstrates the effects of such treatments. However, legislation in different European countries varies widely. Access to medical cannabis for patients is not always facilitated due to differences in regulation, available products, attitude of prescribers or reimbursement rules for instance,” said Lisette Wijnkoop, part of the organisation.
The event found three main hurdles that Europe needs to overcome:
- European Member States understand medical cannabis in different ways. As a result, not all EU countries allow medical cannabis on their market;
- Member States enforce different rules for the maximum levels of Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) permitted in medicines;
- Member States have different approaches as regards the production, distribution, licensing, taxation and reimbursement of medical cannabis.
“It is crucial that Europedevelops a coherent strategy to ensure fair access for patients to medical cannabis. In the face of pharmaceutical companies’ interests, those of patients must be represented and heard. The creation of Cannabis Europe is thus very good news for future discussions,” said MEP Guillayme Balas.