The European Parliament is calling for an EU-wide policy for medical cannabis and properly funded scientific research.
Several EU countries have legalised the medical use of some form of cannabis or cannabinoids or are considering changes to their legislation.
However, the rules on which products are allowed and how they should be used vary widely, although no EU country authorises the smoking or home-growing of cannabis for medical purposes.
While the World Health Organization has officially recommended that the cannabis compound cannabidiol (CBD) should not be classified as a controlled substance, there are no EU-wide rules at the moment for either the medical or recreational use of cannabis.
The cannabis plant is made up of more than 480 compounds, including more than 100 cannabinoids, the best known being THC (D9-tetrahydrocannabinol) and cannabidiol (CBD)
THC is the main psychoactive and addictive constituent of cannabis; CBD has no intoxicating or addictive properties
The medical use of cannabis and cannabinoids can refer to a wide variety of plant-based and synthetic preparations and products
Many countries use the Mexican term marijuana to refer to cannabis leaves. The unpollinated female plants are called hashish
On 13 February, MEPs adopted a resolution on the use of cannabis for medicinal purposes. Members pointed out that cannabis and cannabinoids may have therapeutic effects in stimulating appetite (for weight loss linked to Aids) and in alleviating the symptoms of, for example, mental disorders or epilepsy, asthma, cancer and Alzheimer’s. However, more research is needed. It could also help to ease menstrual pain and reduce the risks of obesity and diabetes.
In the resolution Parliament is asking for a legal definition of medical cannabis in order to clearly distinguish it from other uses. It also says that research and innovation on medical cannabis should be boosted and properly funded, while effective cannabis-based medication should be covered by health insurance schemes.
Protection of minors and vulnerable groups
MEPs said a stable and clear legal framework would improve the quality of medical cannabis and the accuracy of its labelling. This would ensure patients would be able to use it safely, with particular precautions in place for young people and pregnant women.
At EU level, legal rules would help to control points of sale and limit the black market, while preventing substance abuse and addiction among minors and vulnerable groups, according to the resolution.
In addition comprehensive rules would encourage better knowledge about medical cannabis, by ensuring training and access to literature for medical professionals.