Addressing the needs of medicinal cannabis patients

These patients who are suffering from discrimination and a lack of standardisation need a voice to push forward their plea in the European Parliament

The clear challenges faced by European patients who are in need of Medicinal Cannabis products has been a subject that was left unaddressed in the European Parliament for far too long. The suffering of these patients is something that should not be ignored and it is for that very reason that in March of this year, I co-founded the cross-party Alliance on Medicinal Cannabis, made up of like-minded MEPS who all believe that this is an issue that we must tackle.

This week the first cross-party meeting of the MEP Alliance on medicinal cannabis took place and all those present had the opportunity to express their thoughts and shared ideas how we can develop evidence-based policies for high quality and fair access to medicinal cannabis treatments.

As a co-founder of this alliance, I had the honour and the opportunity of hosting this meeting and I presented the general objectives that we should be working on. Unfortunately, it is a truth that in some Member States the stigmatisation of patients who need to use medicinal cannabis is still prevalent and this makes it much harder for the wellbeing of those patients who are already going through a tough time. This issue will be one of the first to be addressed to make sure that the European Union as a whole understands that medicinal cannabis can be used in a beneficial manner.

For this to be clear, as legislators we must push forward a legal definition of medicinal cannabis to clearly distinguish it from other more negative uses cannabis may have. A lack of definition makes it that much harder to create a system of fairer access when it comes to pricing of products in different countries.

The alliance discussed actions which we should view as priorities, mainly to overcome challenges when it comes to the different research and regulatory procedures. By tackling these actions first, legislative solutions can be found which facilitate the placement of safe medicinal cannabis products throughout the EU Member States and also guaranteeing patient’s fair access and coverage by health insurance schemes.

There is only one way to ensure a much higher level of fairness than the sector has today and that is to argue for standardisation and harmonisation of the national laws concerning the access to medicinal cannabis. None of our actions will have an impact if each Member State decides on its own what access it allows to medicinal cannabis. The benefits of these products are no longer in question, with clear evidence from the scientific and medical communities that show this.

The fragmented reality that exists today within the European Union is contributing in creating structural walls of discrimination and access-barriers to enjoy these types of medicinal products. Even though in the views of a minority, medicinal cannabis is still an untested therapy, we must be courageous enough to convince others that this is not the case at all. We must remember that medicinal cannabis products are a need for many patients and one of our basic human rights is the access to healthcare.

These patients who are suffering from discrimination and a lack of standardisation need a voice to push forward their plea in the European Parliament. I, along with the rest of the MEPs who form part of this alliance are determined to be that voice for these patients who want nothing more than what they are owed with their basic human rights.