French Health Minister May Support Medical Marijuana, But Asks to See the Science First

Even though France made medical cannabis legal in 2013, the government still hasn’t made it available. After much discussion and debate, Minister of Health Agnès Buzyn said in an interview that she has asked her team to evaluate the different possibilities.

During a recent interview on radio network RMC, Buzyn said she supported using cannabis flowers for therapeutic purposes if scientific studies show that they are more effective than cannabis-derived drugs.

“There are cannabis drugs, medical cannabis in the form of capsules,” Buzyn said during the radio interview. “These drugs are allowed but are in price negotiations. When the price is set, people will have access to these.” Buzyn was referring to Sativex, an extract that contains CBD and THC that is the first cannabis-based pharmaceutical. Already marketed in 17 European countries, the oral spray was authorized in 2014 to treat multiple sclerosis patients with muscle spasticity.

However, in the years since, the French government and the laboratory have never agreed on a price. Elsewhere in Europe, Sativex is sold for about 328 euros, or $380 in US dollars, based on the exchange rate Thursday, Aug. 2, 2018, but the French government requested a price of about 60 euros, or about $70.

Buzyn continued that other groups are hoping that smokable forms of medicinal cannabis would be allowed, adding, “there are a number of studies underway in different countries to find out if it really brings more [relief]compared to the drugs in tablets.”

Before she makes any decisions, the minister is awaiting reports that will help demonstrate if other, non-pharmaceutical forms of cannabis have additional health benefits.

“I have absolutely no settled doctrine on the subject,” she said. “Either it’s useful and we’ll do it, or the [Sativex] is enough and we’ll stop there.”

Elected officials and doctors in favor of legalization

Buzyn likely reacted to an opinion piece published in the French newspaper Le Parisien, in which several elected officials from leading political parties and doctors have asked for the legalization of medical cannabis, which they said could ease the suffering of 300,000 patients. They also pointed out that 33 countries have partially or totally legalized cannabis for medical purposes.

These elected officials and doctors argued in Le Parisien that marijuana shows “effectiveness of the product in the management of chronic pain, physical disorders caused by chemotherapy and muscle spasms related to multiple sclerosis.”

They also point out that more than 8 out of 10 French people are in favor of the medical use of cannabis and that the legalization could be beneficial for the whole economy.

“The countries that have legislated and supervised the production of therapeutic cannabis are seeing the creation of direct and induced jobs, proof of the emergence of a promising economic sector,” the representatives and health professionals wrote.

As a reminder, French law penalizes all cannabis possession and use, even for medical uses.

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