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Spain’s medical cannabis law to be ready ‘in the coming months’ says health minister

Mónica García Gómez used her first appearance in Congress to reaffirm her commitment to establishing a medical cannabis framework.



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Spain’s newly appointed health minister has said that the country’s long-awaited medical cannabis law will be ready ‘in the coming months,’ as she makes good on her promise to kickstart progress.

Mónica García Gómez used her first appearance in Congress to reaffirm her commitment to establishing a medical cannabis framework in the country, more than a year after it was initially scheduled to be rolled out, laying out plans to ‘recover’ the conclusions that have already been approved by the lower house.

It came as new figures suggest Spain is now the world’s seventh-largest producer of medical cannabis, with production levels and licenses skyrocketing over the past few months despite Spanish patients having no legal access to their own country’s produce.

What happened?

On Friday, January 26, Ms García took the opportunity to bring medical cannabis to the forefront of her agenda as she laid out general policies of her department for the coming year during her inaugural address to Congress.

“We are facing another important issue for the future of public health in our country, which is the regulation of cannabis for therapeutic use,” she told the Congress of Deputies.

“Spain cannot remain on the sidelines of international advances in this field, and therefore, it is imperative to address this issue with scientific rigor, ethical responsibility, and social sensitivity.”

This process has now been in the works for over 18 months but has suffered numerous delays due to Spain’s tumultuous political climate.

In June 2022, following over a year of research, a subcommittee tasked with investigating medical cannabis frameworks deployed throughout the world put forward its proposals for how a similar framework would look in Spain, with these proposals being greenlit in dramatic fashion later that month.

Ms García has suggested that these initial proposals will now play a key role in legislation being put together by her department, and that progress will be made ‘hand in hand with the conclusions approved by the subcommittee’ back in 2022.

According to her department, it has already drafted a ministerial order which will take the first steps to enabling legal access to cannabis medicines for patients suffering from various conditions.

Though it’s not clear what will have changed in the latest iteration of the bill, the initial recommendations approved by the Health Commission suggested that cannabis must only be prescribed by specialist doctors and would only be dispensed in hospital pharmacies, but offered the possibility of extending this to GPs and community pharmacies.

Furthermore, it was recommended that cannabis be prescribed for spasticity in patients with multiple sclerosis, some forms of epilepsy, nausea and vomiting caused by chemotherapy, endometriosis, and chronic pain.

Next, the Ministry of Health is set to hold meetings with different stakeholder groups, including the Spanish Observatory of Medicinal Cannabis (OECM), with local media reporting that meetings are already booked for early February.

“We have a clear roadmap. Under these foundations, in the coming months, we will take the next steps for the approval and implementation of the new regulations,” she said.

The commitments were made alongside the announcement of a comprehensive ‘anti-smoking’ plan, due to take place ‘this year’.

Spain is already a medical cannabis powerhouse

The renewed efforts by the Spanish government to provide a legal route for thousands of patients to access medical cannabis come as new figures reveal that its industry is already booming.

According to the 1961 Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs, countries are required to inform the International Narcotics Control Board (INCB) of their expected requirements for controlled substances intended for medical and scientific purposes each year.

As part of its submission, Spain’s Ministry of Health says it now expects to produce 36 tonnes of medical cannabis in 2024, 12.5 tonnes more than in 2023, Público reported.

This marks the latest period of significant growth in Spanish medical cannabis production since 2022.

In 2018, the Spanish Agency for Medicines and Health Products (AEMPS) reported production of just 400 kilos, growing to around 600 kilos in 2021.

However, in 2022, this number skyrocketed to six tonnes, further quadrupling to 24 tonnes last year. Less than 20% of this total was reportedly set aside for research purposes, with over 80% being exported for use as medical cannabis.

This figure means Spain has overtaken its neighbour Portugal, often considered the beating heart of medical cannabis production for export in Europe, which is expected to produce 32 tonnes of medical cannabis this year.

In fact, the only countries now expected to produce more than Spain this year are the UK (406 tonnes), Canada (285 tonnes), Uruguay (117 tonnes), Colombia (100 tonnes), and Israel (98 tonnes).

This growth has been reflected in the number of companies licensed to cultivate, a number which has grown 150% since 2019 to 25.

This article was originally published by Business of Cannabis and is reprinted here with permission

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