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Spain is likely to approve the legalization of medical marijuana this week after a subcommittee in the lower house of Congress approved a regulatory report on Tuesday, reported ABC. Experts estimate that cannabis could land in the country’s pharmacies as early as the end of the year.
On Thursday, Congress’s health committee is expected to approve the freshly-minted regulatory report. Once that hurdle is cleared, the country’s sanitary authority, the Spanish Agency of Medicines and Medical Devices — which has committed to honoring Congress’s conclusions on the matter — will have six months to enact the report’s guidelines surrounding medical weed.
Currently, Sativex and Epidiolex are the only two cannabis-based medications that are legally available to Spanish patients. Both Sativex and Epidiolex are pharmaceutical formulations which contain the isolated cannabinoids THC and CBD, respectively, and practically no other beneficial compounds from the plant. Ironically, the Agency of Medicines estimated that "6,000 kilos" of cannabis would be produced in Spain annually — with most of it destined for export to other countries.
As per the report, which the subcommittee labored on for five months, medical cannabis in the form of extracts and other refined products will be distributed through government-run pharmacies. These sites will also be tasked with preparing the extracts and other cannabis-based preparations described in the document. The option of the country’s community pharmacies selling the marijuana medications will also be explored, says the report.
A nationwide cannabis patient registry will also be established, and the Agency of Medicines will be in charge of producing a report on the state of Spain’s medical marijuana every year — investigations that will be geared towards preventing the “general use of cannabis by the population.” In other words, the document does caution against the "greater availability and consumption" of the drug among Spanish residents for non-therapeutic purposes.
Though cannabis flower will be not be made available to the country’s patients at first, that may change in the future. The report refers to the medicinal worth of nugs as “valuable,” and includes their distribution in its list of “experimental projects.”
The news will likely have little impact on Spain’s groundbreaking cannabis clubs, which have been threatened with extinction in recent years. In Barcelona, a legal loophole that kept the city’s almost-200 cannabis clubs open was closed last year by the Spanish Supreme Court amid suspicions that organized crime had seized control of the clubs' cannabis supplies. Despite that legal action, many clubs have managed to keep their doors open to Barcelona residents and tourists alike.
A vote in Congress last October to legalize recreational marijuana was unsuccessful, with even the country’s Socialist Party turning its back on the green.
Patient advocates have sounded the alarm that the list of qualifying health conditions included in the report are too narrowly defined. At the moment, only six conditions have been authorized for cannabis prescriptions, including multiple sclerosis, some forms of epilepsy, nausea and vomiting caused by chemotherapy, endometriosis, cancer-related pain, and other forms of chronic pain (including neuropathic pain.)
The report states that cannabis treatment will be considered for more medical conditions “when studies provide consistent evidence” for their effectiveness.
The Spanish Medicinal Cannabis Observatory estimated that some 300,000 patients will qualify for cannabis treatment under the report's proposed regulations. That may not be a huge number of patients in a nation with more than 46 million people, but it's a start.
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