Is Spain about to Join the MMJ EU? – After a 10-Year Battle, Spain May Approve a Medical Marijuana Program

January 19, 2024 · Cannabis.net

As Spain emerges from an extended period of political deadlock, its newly formed government takes a significant step to address the persistent medical cannabis deadlock in the country. Despite encountering challenges, the hard-won government appointed a Minister of Health committed to fulfilling the previous administration’s promises. They are pushing to establish a medical cannabis framework.

Carola Pérez, President of the Spanish Observatory of Medicinal Cannabis (OECM), a pivotal figure in advancing medical cannabis in Spain, perceives this commitment as a turning point after a decade-long campaign. Spanish cannabis clubs are famous in cities like Barcelona, but medical marijuana patients do not have an outlet for medical cannabis.

Pérez expresses optimism, saying that the day the document is signed will be celebrated after ten years of effort. Today is already a day of joy because there is now someone genuinely caring about patients, a pain specialist.

Emphasizing the positive development, she adds that there is genuine satisfaction as the government pledges to consult with us, marking the first time such a commitment has been heard from the Spanish government.

What Transpired?

In the previous week, the newly appointed Minister of Health, Mónica García Gómez, committed to reviving the government’s long-promised plans to regulate medical cannabis. Initially scheduled for implementation in January 2023, these plans had been consistently deferred by the prior administration. It had been put on indefinite hold since the snap election in July 2023. Thankfully, Ms. García is now reported to have prioritized this issue.

Local media sources indicate that the health minister has engaged with the Spanish Agency for Medicines and Health Products (AEMPS) management team concerning the draft Ministerial Order assigned to them in 2022. This order is intended to establish an initial framework for regulation.  Will the new regulations help or hurt the current cannabis clubs in Spain? Time will tell, but many feel the recreational side is safe for now.

The draft has purportedly been forwarded to the Ministry of Health. Reports suggest they are conducting a series of meetings with relevant groups, primarily the OECM, that have been actively involved in addressing this issue.

Ms. Pérez shared with Business of Cannabis that upon assuming her position, she first committed to advance this, as we have been awaiting the document from the AEMPS for a year. Privately, there were doubts about the existence of this document, but after conversing with the General Secretary of the Minister of Health, it was confirmed that the document does exist.

She emphasized the government’s intention to act swiftly, involving consultations with patients and experts. While the previous government made promises, we were skeptical about their commitment. Now, there is a genuine belief that action will be taken. This marks a significant departure from the past.”

She mentioned that Ms. García, affiliated with the left-wing and pro-cannabis Sumar party, has consistently advocated for medical cannabis. In addition to being a qualified anesthesiologist, Ms. García has seamlessly integrated her political role with her healthcare career since 2015. Furthermore, she has maintained a longstanding involvement with the OECM and is the first politician to meet with Ms. Pérez in 2015.

This favorable perception of the new health minister resonates widely within the industry. Don Bellamy, CEO of the Spanish medical cannabis firm Linneo Health, expressed that they are highly encouraged by the communication from Spain’s newly appointed Minister of Health, Mónica García Gómez. It proves the ministry’s commitment to resume the previously halted work by the sub-commission on legislation to regulate medicinal cannabis in Spain.

The news is a significant development and is likely to bring relief to Spanish patients, representing a substantial stride toward providing them access to safe, high-quality medicinal cannabis products for managing their conditions. We eagerly anticipate continuing our participation in discussions with the government to transform this into a reality for these patients.”

Although a specific date for the forthcoming consultations remains unconfirmed, sources on both sides suggest that these discussions will unfold in the coming weeks.

A Year-Long Wait

This process has been underway for more than 18 months but has faced numerous setbacks due to the turbulent political climate in Spain. In June 2022, after a year of research, a subcommittee tasked with examining global medical cannabis frameworks presented its proposals for implementing a similar framework in Spain. These proposals were approved dramatically later that month.

Following this, AEMPS was given only six months to draft a document with recommendations on integrating this framework into the country’s regulations and ensuring legal viability, aiming for implementation in January 2023. However, this deadline passed without explanation from the government.

It wasn’t until March 2023 that the issue was addressed, with the government retracting its commitments, citing ‘insufficient’ information to recommend its use. Despite government assurances in May, it was confirmed in June that plans for implementing a medical cannabis framework would not proceed before the general election in July.

Josep Antòn Sànchez, Director of the Spanish Medcan/Decann clinic, pointed out that the ‘equality of results in the Spanish elections prevented the Socialist Party from taking a clear stance in favor of cannabis, even therapeutic cannabis. He believes that now is the time to make a firm position on an issue that 84% of Spaniards support, including the need for comprehensive regulation.’

After an inconclusive summer election, the conservative Popular Party (PP) secured the top position but lacked sufficient votes to form a government. This situation led its leader, Alberto Nunez Feijoo, to lose a crucial parliamentary vote to become prime minister in September.

In October, the incumbent Socialist Party, led by Pedro Sánchez, announced an unexpected agreement with the far-left Sumar party. Despite initial expectations, they successfully formed a working coalition with additional parties.

Mr. Sànchez concluded that he believes they have never been so close to legalization. There are numerous ongoing political challenges, but it is evident that the common good we strive to protect, health, should transcend political ideologies, especially now that there is ample scientific evidence. While challenges persist, we are engaged in a marathon, not a sprint.

Conclusion

Spain is taking decisive steps to address its longstanding medical cannabis deadlock as its newly formed government, led by a committed Minister of Health, prioritizes the establishment of a medical cannabis framework. Carola Pérez, President of the Spanish Observatory of Medicinal Cannabis (OECM), sees this as a significant turning point after a decade of advocacy.

The recent commitment from Minister Mónica García Gómez to revive plans for cannabis regulation is met with optimism, especially as she demonstrates a genuine concern for patients and engages in consultations with relevant stakeholders.

The positive developments have resonated throughout the industry, with stakeholders like Don Bellamy expressing encouragement and anticipating progress toward providing patients access to medicinal cannabis. (Full Story)

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