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Patients to call for equity in medical cannabis access at UN Commission on Narcotic Drugs

The IACM Patient Council will highlight the barriers facing cannabis patients across the globe in Vienna next month.


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Patients from across the globe will call for fair and equal access to medicinal cannabis treatment at the upcoming session of the UN Commission on Narcotic Drugs.


Members of the IACM Patient Council, alongside other non-profit organisations, will represent the rights of patients seeking legal, fair and equitable access to medicinal cannabis at the nine-day event taking place in Vienna from 14-22 March, 2024.


The Commission on Narcotic Drugs (CND) was established in 1946 as a functional Commission of the UN Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC), and is the principal policy-making body within the UN system on drug control issues. 


The 67th CND session is a mid-term review which will focus on taking stock of the implementation of all existing international drug policy commitments and the work to accelerate the implementation of the commitments from 2024 to 2029.


This is to be the first time members of the IACM Patient Council will attend the CND, with six representatives taking part in events throughout the session and providing written and oral statements in the CND plenary and negotiating forums to help shape the debate and influence policy outcomes.

‘Historic moment for cannabis activism’

The organisation has described it as a ‘historic moment for cannabis activism’, with the presence of patients and activists at high-level political events such as this necessary to ensure the advancement of fair and just legislation for cannabis patients worldwide.


The barriers faced by cannabis patients around the world are often imposed and perpetuated by the treaties that the CND is responsible for. 


While over 20 members of the European Union have now legalised medical cannabis in some form, access varies greatly between countries. 


In Germany the number of patients who hold prescriptions for cannabis are now well into triple digits, although only a small proportion of these currently qualify for medical reimbursement.


Meanwhile in Greece, where medical cannabis was first legalised in 2017, due to current regulations —including a ban on cannabis imports —patients still have no access to legal medicines. 


“The issues that patients face with access are common to citizens around the world,” said Jacqueline Poitras, IACM Patient Council co-founder, national representative for Greece and founding director of the advocacy group, MAMAKA – Mothers for Cannabis.


“Cannabis has been recognised by the World Health Organization as having medicinal applications and it is time that this highly therapeutic botanical be treated as such and not as a dangerous narcotic which is distanced from the patients that have need of its healing properties.


“The treaties and regulations that have been put in place in the past desperately need to be revised and updated to support the rights and needs of patients today. Political agendas of some countries shouldn’t be allowed to be an obstacle to safe and affordable access.” 


Michael Krawitz, national representative for the USA and executive director of Veterans for Medical Cannabis Access, also highlighted a growing evidence base to support cannabis as a possible alternative to opioid-based medications for the hundreds of millions living with chronic pain around the world. 


“Cannabis, as an adjunct pain treatment, produces better patient outcomes and reduces the need for opiates,” he said.


“The IACM Patient Council has reviewed the cannabis access programs of various countries and we have found that many have no access and those with access often have obstacles that at best are unnecessary and at worst represent a violation of basic human rights. We hope that our input into these United Nations historic meetings will help guide countries to better patient access.”


Canadian national representative and founder of AUBE: The Voice of Medical Cannabis Patients, Daphnée Elisma added: ”It is essential that the barriers to safe and affordable access to medical cannabis be addressed on a non-discriminatory basis.”


Members of the IACM Patient Council who will be in attendance, include:

  • Jacqueline Poitras, Co-Founder and National Representative Greece

  • Michael Krawitz, National Representative USA

  • Daphnée Elisma, National Representative Canada

  • Tom Curran, National Representative Ireland

  • Dr. Pavel Kubu, National Representative Czech Republic

  • Kevin Herzig, National Representative Austria

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