9 October 2018

The vote by the European Parliament’s Committee on the Environment, Public Health and Food Safety (ENVI) last week in favour of its draft resolution on the use of cannabis for medicinal purposes marks a significant step towards a harmonised legal framework in this area, but much remains to be done.

The European Cancer Patient Coalition (ECPC) welcomes the decision by European Parliament’s ENVI committee to call on the European Commission to develop a harmonised EU legal framework for medicinal cannabis. Such a legal framework would help to ensure that potential clinical benefits of medicinal cannabis and cannabis-derived medicines are available to patients across Europe.

Contained within the cannabis plant are over 100 active chemical compounds (cannabinoids), offering great untapped medical potential. To date much of the focus has been on two cannabinoids, CBD and THC. However, to unleash the true potential of the medical use of cannabis further research should be conducted on the potential therapeutic benefit of a wider spectrum of cannabinoids. As noted in the draft resolution, research on medicinal cannabis has received no direct support during the current research programme in the EU and there is little coordination of research projects on medicinal cannabis across Member States.

As one of the few patient organisations directly involved in research, thus bringing patients’ perspective in EU Funded Health & Research projects, ECPC will continue to work to highlight the importance of increased research funds in this area. The added value of natural preparations of medicinal cannabis over classic anti-pain treatments such as opioids is of great importance to patients. This is particularly true because opioids are extremely addictive and can cause severe side-effects affecting patients’ quality of life. As such, we will also continue to advocate for increased education of healthcare professionals on the legal aspects and potential clinical benefits of medicinal cannabis and cannabis-derived medicines.

The European Cancer Patient Coalition looks forward to the European Parliament voting on this motion in plenary by the end of the year, and the subsequent discussion with the European Commission. For our part, in 2019, following the European elections, we will continue to advocate for a harmonised legal framework for the medical use of cannabis and cannabis-derived products in all EU Member States, in order to provide equal and timely access to cancer patients experiencing substantial pain and for those in the terminal stage of disease.