Written by Alice O’Leary Randall
Recently I attended the loftily titled “2nd International Annual Congress on Controversies on Cannabis-Based Medicine” in Barcelona, Spain. It didn’t take too long to realize a simpler title might be “Confusions on Medical Cannabis.” Confusion seemed in abundant supply among conference goers, the majority of whom were physicians,and it is understandable. After eight decades of a nearly global prohibition, “suddenly” medical cannabis seems to be everywhere and no one is more acutely aware of this than doctors and other healthcare practitioners. These frontline providers are bombarded daily with questions about cannabis and, most particularly, CBD. Sadly, the patient is often more educated with respect to medical cannabis than the physician.
The meeting built on the success of the first Controversies conference in Vienna in 2018. This year’s event was even larger with over 250 registrants from 30 countries. The geographical focus is decidedly European which made the official endorsement of the European Pain Federation (EFIC), a nice feather in the cap of conference organizers. The EFIC has become proactive with regard to medical cannabis, preparing a position paper in 2018 that led to passage of a Resolution in February 2019 by the European Parliament supporting medical cannabis.
The European Parliament Resolution has gone largely unnoticed in the U.S. As with all parliamentary resolutions it is non-binding but that doesn’t minimize the content or the possibility of it becoming a catalyst for significant European reform in the coming years. (See its full text here https://www.europarl.europa.eu/doceo/document/TA-8-2019-0113_EN.html)
It can be summarized as “highly supportive” of medical cannabis but the beauty of this document is that it addresses some very specific points. For example, the Resolution encourages medical cannabis education calling for the European states to provide “proper medical training and to encourage increased knowledge on medical cannabis based on independent and wide-ranging research; further calls on Member States to allow doctors to make free use of their professional judgement in prescribing regulatory-approved cannabis-based medicines to patients with relevant conditions, and to allow pharmacists to lawfully honour those prescriptions; highlights the need for training and access to literature for all medical personnel – such as medical students, medical doctors and pharmacists – on the results of independent scientific research.”
How refreshing to see a governmental body encouraging educational training in medical cannabis for healthcare providers as well as respect the judgement of physicians and pharmacists.
The Resolution also addresses an issue of great importance to patients. Recommendation #10 “Calls on the Commission to work with Member States to improve equal access to cannabis-based medicines and to ensure that, where allowed, medicines which are effective in treating specific conditions are covered by health insurance schemes in the same way as other medicines;” (emphasis added). How long will it take for patients in the U.S. to see the cost of their medical cannabis covered by health insurance?
Passage of this resolution sets in motion the formulation of legislation and regulatory suggestions for the European Parliament. So there is hope that this Resolution and the efforts of EFIC could lead to legislation that will be uniformly applied across Europe. It must be noted, however, that the European Parliament is notorious for moving at glacial speed. ❖
Up Next! A look at the discussion on “Cannabis Clinics and Doctors” from the 2nd International Annual Congress on Controversies on Cannabis-Based Medicines.