Members of the European Parliament recommended: Take medical use of cannabis seriously

Members of the European Parliament (MEP) proposed the ways to address research gaps on medical cannabis and call on member states to seize the potential of cannabis-based medicines.

In a resolution adopted on Wednesday 11 September, MEPs call on the Commission and national authorities to draw a clear distinction between medical cannabis and other uses of cannabis. The resolution urges the Commission and member states to address regulatory, financial and cultural barriers which burden scientific research and invites them to properly fund research. The EU should embark on more research and stimulate innovation with regard to medicinal cannabis projects.

MEPs call on member states to allow doctors to use their professional judgement in prescribing cannabis-based medicines. When effective, these medicines are to be covered by health insurance schemes in the same way as other types of medicine, they say.

European Parliament

The regulation of cannabis-based medicines would translate into additional revenue for public authorities, would limit the black market and ensure quality and accurate labelling. It would also limit minors’ access to this substance, they say.

MEPs say that there is evidence that cannabis or cannabinoids may be effective in increasing appetite and decreasing weight loss associated with HIV/AIDS. Medical cannabis may also help to alleviate the symptoms of mental disorders such as psychosis or Tourette syndrome, and to alleviate the symptoms of epilepsy, as well as Alzheimer’s, arthritis, asthma, cancer, Crohn’s disease and glaucoma. They also help to reduce the risk of obesity and diabetes and ease menstrual pain.

Whilst the WHO has officially recommended that the cannabis compound cannabidiol (CBD) should not be classified as a controlled substance, legislation in member states differs widely on the subject of cannabis for medicinal purposes.

The European Parliament is made up of 751 Members elected in the 28 Member States of the enlarged European Union. Since 1979 MEPs have been elected by direct universal suffrage for a five-year period.

Research Publication on the Effectiveness of Cannabinoids on Glioblastoma

Slovenian National Institute of Biology and University Medical Centre Ljubljana, with MGC Pharma Research and Development Division, conducted the study about the treatment of high-grade brain tumours, i.e. glioblastoma with cannabinoids. The general aim of the research was to develop formulations to define the protocols for the treatment.

Study evaluated cannabinoid receptor proteins that may add to identify the most effective cytotoxic cannabinoids, known so far, e.g. CBD and THC ratios and further their possible synergistic effects with chemotherapeutic Temozolomide (‘TMZ’) with regards to the treatment of glioblastoma patients.

Conclusions of the study

Cannabinoids, especially at increasing THC concentrations, reduce the viability of glioblastoma cells.

Targeting glioblastoma stem cells (GSCs) that are more resistant to chemotherapy. GSC has so far proved to be more vulnerable to cannabinoids than were differentiated cell (publication in preparation).

At optimal concentration for each patient, the defined cannabinoids composition represents promising tool to reduce tumour burden.

Research collaboration is part of MGC Pharma’s strategy of partnering with leading research institutions to examine opportunities to develop new pharma products based on proven cannabinoid formulations in pre-and clinical studies.

The study results can be viewed on the Company’s website and will be presented by the National Institute of Biology at the 2nd International Annual Congress on Controversies on Cannabis-Based Medicines in Barcelona, Spain on 23-24 May 2019.

World Health Organization Recommends Reclassifying Marijuana Under International Treaties

Global health experts at the United Nations are recommending that marijuana and its key components be formally rescheduled under international drug treaties.

The World Health Organization (WHO) is calling for whole-plant marijuana, as well as cannabis resin, to be removed from Schedule IV—the most restrictive category of a 1961 drug convention signed by countries from around the world.

The body also wants delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and its isomers to be completely removed from a separate 1971 drug treaty and instead added to Schedule I of the 1961 convention, according to a WHO document that has not yet been formally released but was circulated by cannabis reform advocates.

Marijuana and cannabis resin would also remain in Schedule I of the 1961 treaty—they are currently dual-designated in Schedules I and IV, with IV being reserved for those substances that are seen as particularly harmful with limited medical benefits. (That’s different from the U.S. federal system, under which Schedule I is where the supposedly most dangerous and restricted drugs—like marijuana, heroin and LSD—are classified.)

WHO is also moving to make clear that cannabidiol and CBD-focused preparations containing no more than 0.2 percent THC are “not under international control” at all. It had previously been the case that CBD wasn’t scheduled under the international conventions, but the new recommendation is to make that even more clear.

Cannabis extracts and tinctures would be removed from Schedule I of the 1961 treaty under the recommendations, and compounded pharmaceutical preparations containing THC would be placed in Schedule III of that convention.

A number of countries that have historically opposed drug policy reforms, such as Russia and China, are expected to oppose the change in cannabis’s classification.

Other nations like Canada and Uruguay, which have legalize marijuana in contravention of the current treaties, are likely to back the reform, as are a number of European and South American nations that allow medical cannabis.

Also, while some experts state that this is a step forward towards serious independent researches on use of cannabis, others think that the news is still not good enough for consumers and those using cannabis for medical purpose.

cannabis

Potency and price of cannabis in Europe doubled in last 11 years

The first study to investigate changes in cannabis across Europe showed that cannabis resin and herbal cannabis have significantly increased in potency and in price. The study was published on 30 December 2018 in the journal Addiction by researchers from the University of Bath and King’s College London. It draws on data collected from across 28 EU Member states, as well as Norway and Turkey by the European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction.

The findings show that for herbal cannabis, concentrations of Δ9-tetrahydrocannabinol (‘THC’ – the main psychoactive constituent of cannabis) increased by a similar amount each year, from 5% in 2006 to 10% in 2016.

For cannabis resin, THC concentrations were relatively stable from 2006 to 2011 (from 8% to 10%) but then increased rapidly from 2011 to 2016 (from 10% to 17%). The price of cannabis resin also increased, but to a lesser extent than for herbal cannabis.

Cannabis resin typically contains cannabidiol (CBD) in addition to THC. CBD has recently attracted considerable interest due to its potential to treat several medical conditions including childhood epilepsy syndromes, psychosis and anxiety. But, when present in cannabis, CBD may offset some of the harmful effects of THC such as paranoia and memory impairment.

Cannabis-containing higher levels of THC and/or lower levels of CBD has been linked to greater long-term harms such as the development of cannabis dependence, and an increased risk of psychotic illness. New resin production techniques in Morocco and Europe have increased levels of THC, but not CBD.

Leader of the research team Dr Tom Freeman indicates that “CBD has the potential to make cannabis safer, without limiting the positive effects users seek. What we are seeing in Europe is an increase in THC and either stable or decreasing levels of CBD, potentially making cannabis more harmful. These changes in the illicit market are largely hidden from scientific investigation and are difficult to target by policy-makers. An alternative option could be to attempt to control THC and CBD content through regulation.”

The research is available following this link>>>>

Initiative for the establishment and coordination of the “Greek Observatory for the Medical Use of Cannabis”

In view of the on-going progress in the field of the medical use of cannabis at international level, as well as the current developments in Greece, NGO Diogenis within a network of collaborating civil society organizations – with years of experience, knowledge and activity in this specific area of interest – is undertaking the initiative to set up and coordinate the establishment of the “Greek Observatory for the Medical Use of Cannabis”.

The common goal of organizations involved is to ensure the immediate, unhindered and legal access of patients to quality cannabis for medical use based on international evidence based data and best practices.

Fundamental conditions required to achieve this goal are considered to be:

  • The creation of the appropriate legal framework to support and protect patients in their use and possession of cannabis for medical purposes.
  • The guarantee of access for patients to the appropriate form of medicinal cannabis in accordance to the indications of each individual medical condition.
  • The development of strategies to strengthen domestic cannabis production for medical use, beyond the introduction of legal medicines and cannabis preparations from abroad, to protect both the domestic economy and patients from the inherent risks of a market which is quickly being dominated by large multinational companies and international investment funds.
  • The promotion and defence of patients’ rights in accordance with the European Charter of Patients’ Rights (i.e. the right of access to the health services that health needs require, the right to information, the right of free choice, the right to avoid unnecessary suffering and pain).

You can read the press release here.

Annual Drug Policy Conference

The Annual Regional Conference in South East Europe was organised in Thessaloniki from 8 to 10 June 2017. The conference aimed to bring together NGOs, policy makers and researchers active in the drugs field in the region of South East Europe, in order to discuss drug policy developments and trends, exchange experiences and best practices in the region, Europe and the United Nations.

The conference is part of the regional project “Strengthening NGO capacity and promoting public health and human rights oriented drug policy in South East Europe”, supported financially by the European Commission and the Open Society Foundations. The organiser was Diogenis, Drug Policy Dialogue.

National drug coordinators from Romania and Croatia

The Conference agenda included a large number of interesting issues:

  • The Sustainable Development Goals 2030 and drug policy. Priority issues, the role of UN agencies, expected commitments from the member states and role of NGOs. Presenter was Jo Dedeyne-Amann, Chief Secretariat to the Governing Bodies, Division for Treaty Affairs, UNODC. Nikos Stergiou, Communication and public relations Officer, Diogenis, presented experience of two local meetings.
  • Initiatives undertaken in the countries of our region related to implementation of the outcomes of the UNGASS and the role of NGOs. National drug coordinators presented work in their countries: drug co-ordinators: Sorin Oprea (Romania), Milan Pekić (Serbia), Željko Petković (Croatia) and Manina Terzidou, head of the Greek Monitoring Centre for Drugs (EKTEPN) (Greece)
  • Women and Drugs. Facts and Special Characteristics for Girls and Women who use drugs was the presentation from Meni Malliori, Professor of Psychiatry at the University of Athens, while Georgia Aslanidou, Psychologist, OKANA Thessaloniki presented about Addicted mothers and the journey of therapy
  • Drugs and internet: experiences, opportunities and concerns in the use of online counselling tools presented by Ilias Paraskevopoulos, Consultant for addictions at KETHEA ITHAKI
  • The Harm reduction project in South East Europe. Developments and next steps presented by Sofia Galinaki, Advocacy Officer, Diogenis and Peers’ involvement in harm reduction, with introduction from Christos Anastasiou, Peer Network of Users of Psychoactive Substances (PENUPS).
  • Irena Molnar and Bojan Arsenijević from the NGO Re Generation, Serbia provided valuable insight into Changing culture in drug use including new psychoactive substances
  • Developments in the discussion about cannabis policy in countries of SEE
Irena Molnar presenting about Changing culture in drug use including new psychoactive substances

Representatives from 14 DPNSEE member organisations, 3 Board members and all 5 Staff were at the Conference. We presented the Network, strategic priorities and plans for the future. Our two volunteers talked about their work on the Glossary and Resource Pool.

Marios Atzemis, DPNSEE Board member, making an intervention

The Conference was a very good opportunity to share and learn about interesting ideas and make plans for the future.

Legalize or not?

NGO “LEK lekalizuj, which has the mission is to launch initiatives for adoption of law on regulating medical cannabis, organised a public debate on medical cannabis on 24 December 2016 in Ruma, Serbia. The trigger for the debate was the forthcoming draft of the changes to the Law on psychoactive controlled substances.

The room was full of people who experienced different kind of progress in their health conditions claiming that it came from using medicaments based on cannabis oil.

DPNSEE representatives presented different experiences in regulating this item in countries of South East Europe.