By the end of the year, pharmacies in Spain will be able to sell cannabis with THC for medical and therapeutic purposes. Previously only medicinal cannabis with THC removed was permitted in the country. Currently, CBD products are not illegal in Spain provided that they contain less than 0.2 percent of THC. THC is the psychoactive component that makes you feel ‘high’ when you ingest cannabis in any form. Spain’s Medicines Agency is currently in negotiations to lay out exactly what the conditions for this change will be, but we do know that it’s happening soon! Here’s everything you need to know about this change, and how it might impact you:
Who Will Benefit from Medical Marijuana?
According to the Spanish Observatory of Medicinal Cannabis (OECM) there are currently 300,000 people living in Spain who would benefit from using cannabis for therapeutic purposes. The current plan is that a centralised registry will be created listing the names and details of the patients who are permitted to use the medicinal drug. This will ensure that the system cannot be abused, and that it is only purchased by individuals who need it and are authorised to use it.
According to the official state update, the cannabis formulas will be prescribed exclusively by health professionals “in a context free of potential conflicts of interest” and should only be prescribed by professionals who are trained to dispense it.
Will These Legalise Cannabis in Spain?
It is important to note that there is a clear differentiation between legalising marijuana and legalising medical marijuana. Spain is currently only debating legalisation of the drug for medical use. The reason Spanish officials are introducing a database of official registered cannabis users is because they are keen to prevent the supply of cannabis for therapeutic uses from leading to “greater availability and consumption” outside of the context of health benefits. Effectively, they do not want this law change to lead to widespread or general cannabis use in the country. In all of the press releases released about this new scheme, they are keen to emphasise that they do not want to medicinal value of cannabis to be “confused with an invocation of the general use of cannabis by the population”.
How Will Sales Be Monitored and Controlled?
To prevent excessive use of these controlled substances by individuals who are not permitted to use them, the Spanish Medicines Agency will monitor the volumes of products dispensed, the patients accessing the service and other options available, via an annual report.
The focus of the current process is on standardised cannabis extracts, but the medicinal use of the cannabis flower may also be incorporated into the law as part of an experimental medicinal project. Many patients use the flower as a “rescue” medicine during episodes of crisis.
According to Carlos Goicoechea, vice president of the Spanish Pain Society and professor of Pharmacology at the Rey Juan Carlos University, this change will be beneficial to many of the patients who rely on cannabis for pain control. He states that “Many times, the high THC composition of this is too high for a patient. From now on, it will be possible to regulate the amount of THC and make a more personalised adjustment.”
What Drugs Will Be Available to Qualifying Patients?
There are currently two approved cannabis drugs marketed and used in Spain. These are Sativex and Epidiolex. The new plan will mean patients who are unable to take these two drugs because of the high dosage will now be able to take specific doses created by the pharmacies. This means that these treatments could help a wider range of patients to overcome pain and other chronic health conditions.
The decision has been made to dispense these drugs via pharmacies, rather than via doctors or another method, because according to the president of the General Council of Official Colleges of Pharmacists (CGCOF), Jesús Aguilar dispensing the drug through the network of pharmacies reconciles the most demanding criteria of “public health, patient safety, health education and equal access”. It is easy and accessible for almost all patients to visit their local pharmacy in a way that it might not be accessible to visit a specialist hospital, for example.
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