National and international regulations
European laws on cannabis possession (small amount). Data are from multiple sources detailed on the full source list
Medical use of cannabis or preparation containing THC as the active substance is legalized in Canada, Belgium, Austria, Netherlands, UK, Spain, Israel, Finland and some states in the U.S., although it is still illegal under U.S. federal law.
Cannabis is in Schedule IV of the United Nations´ Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs, making it subject to special restrictions. Article 2 provides for the following, in reference to Schedule IV drugs:
A Party shall, if in its opinion the prevailing conditions in its country render it the most appropriate means of protecting the public health and welfare, prohibit the production, manufacture, export and import of, trade in, possession or use of any such drug except for amounts which may be necessary for medical and scientific research only, including clinical trials therewith to be conducted under or subject to the direct supervision and control of the Party.
The convention thus allows countries to outlaw cannabis for all non-research purposes but lets nations choose to allow medical and scientific purposes if they believe total prohibition is not the most appropriate means of protecting health and welfare. The convention requires that states that permit the production or use of medical cannabis must operate a licensing system for all cultivators,manufacturers and distributors and ensure that the total cannabis market of the state shall not exceed that required “for medical and scientific purposes.”
Cannabis has been used in Africa since the 15th century. Its use was introduced by Arab traders, somehow connected to India. “In Africa, the plant was used for snake bite, to facilitate childbirth, malaria, fever, blood poisoning, anthrax, asthma, and dysentery.” (Zuardi, 2006, 4) Though African government has tried to limit and stop its use, it still seems to be deeply ingrained, mostly through religious rituals.
In Austria both ?9-THC and pharmaceutical preparations containing ?9-THC are listed in annex V of the Narcotics Decree (Suchtgiftverordnung). Compendial formulations are manufactured upon prescription according to the German Neues Rezeptur-Formularium.
On July 9, 2008, the Austrian Parliament approved cannabis cultivation for scientific and medical uses. Cannabis cultivation is controlled by the Austrian Agency for Health and Food Safety (Österreichische Agentur für Gesundheit und Ernährungssicherheit, AGES).
Centre compassion de Montréal, au Québec.
In Canada, the regulation on access to cannabis for medical purposes, established by Health Canada in July 2001, defines two categories of patients eligible for access to medical cannabis. BC College of Physicians and Surgeons’ recommendation, as well as the CMPA position, is that physicians may prescribe cannabis if they feel comfortable with it. The MMAR forms are a confidential document between Health Canada, the physician and the patient. The information is not shared with the College or with the RCMP. No doctor has ever gone to court or faced prosecution for filling out a form or for prescribing medical cannabis. Category 1 covers any symptoms treated within the context of providing compassionateend-of-life care or the symptoms associated with medical conditions listed below:
- severe pain and/or persistent muscle spasms from multiple sclerosis, from a spinal cord injury, from spinal cord disease,
- severe pain, cachexia, anorexia, weight loss, and/or severe nausea from cancer or HIV/AIDS infection,
- severe pain from severe forms of arthritis, or
- seizures from epilepsy.
Category 2 is for applicants who have debilitating symptom(s) of medical condition(s), other than those described in Category 1. The application of eligible patients must be supported by a medical practitioner.
The cannabis distributed by Health Canada is provided under the brand CannaMed by the company Prairie Plant Systems Inc. In 2006, 420 kg of CannaMed cannabis was sold, representing an increase of 80% over the previous year. However, patients complain of the single strain selection as well as low potency, providing a pre-ground product put through a wood chipper (which deteriorates rapidly) as well as gamma irradation and foul taste and smell.
Reception desk at the Kingston Compassion Club Society in Kingston, Ontario
It is also legal for patients approved by Health Canada to grow their own cannabis for personal consumption, and it’s possible to obtain a production license as a person designated by a patient. Designated producers were permitted to grow a cannabis supply for only a single patient, however. That regulation and related restrictions on supply were found unconstitutional by the Federal Court of Canada in January, 2008. The court found that these regulations did not allow a sufficient legal supply of medical cannabis, and thus forced many patients to purchase their medicine from unauthorized, black market sources. This was the eighth time in the previous ten years that the courts ruled against Health Canada’s regulations restricting the supply of the medicine.
In Canada there are four forms of medical cannabis. The first one is a cannabis extract called Sativex that contains THC and cannabidiol in a spray form. The second is a synthetic or manmade THC called dronabinol marketed as Marinol. The third also a synthetic version of THC called nabilone that is called Cesamet on the markets. The fourth product is the herbal form of cannabis often referred to as marijuana.
In February 2008, seven German patients could legally be treated with medicinal cannabis, distributed by prescription in pharmacies. To regulate therapeutic use, Germany modeled on Dutch neighbor who distributes this way since in 2003 (120 kg in 2008).
In Germany dronabinol was rescheduled in 1994 from annex I to annex II of the Narcotics Law (Betäubungsmittelgesetz) in order to ease research; in 1998 dronabinol was rescheduled from annex II to annex III and since then has been available by prescription, whereas ?9-THC is still listed in annex I. Manufacturing instructions for dronabinol containing compendial formulations are described in the Neues Rezeptur-Formularium.
In modern history, the molecule THC was isolated in 1964 by Raphael Mechoulam and Yechiel Gaoni of the Weizmann Institute in Rehovot, Israel.
Medicine since 1999 recognized the prescription of therapeutic cannabis to cover the care according to the broadest scope of diseases for which there can be recognized: fibromyalgia, cancer, HIV / AIDS, neurological disorders, multiple sclerosis, of asthma and glaucoma, as well as post-traumatic stress.
An organization, originally with compassionate motives and a Hebrew concept of social justice, the Tikkun Olam, was officially presented in March 2007 the Ministry of Health as a leading provider of medical cannabis. In 2010, this concept is effective for patients from 4000 to 5000. This policy may predict an increase of up to 40,000 people by 2012.
Prescription medical cannabis in the Netherlands
Since 2003, the country’s pharmacies distribute medicinal cannabis (pharmaceutical form of the natural plant) by prescription, in addition to other drugs containing cannabinoids (dronabinol, Sativex).
The three therapeutic qualities produced by the company Bedrocan and distributed in the pharmacy are:
- Bedrocan (18% dronabinol / THC)
- Bediol (11% dronabinol / THC)
- Bedrobinol (6% + 7.5% CBD dronabinol).
The Office of Medicinal Cannabis (BMC), which reports to the Ministry of Health and Sports of the Netherlands, is responsible for ensuring control of the distribution of these new medicines.
In 2008, 120,000 grams of medical marijuana were sold through the network of pharmacies at a price of about 7 € / g.
In Spain, since the late 1990s and early 2000s, medical cannabis underwent a process of progressive decriminalization and legalisation. The parliament of the region of Catalonia is the first in Spain have voted unanimously in 2001 legalizing medical marijuana, it is quickly followed by parliaments of Aragon and the Balearic Islands. The Spanish Penal Code prohibits the sale of cannabis but it does not prohibit consumption (although consumption on the street is fined). Until early 2000, the Penal Code did not distinguish between therapeutic use of cannabis and recreational use, however, several court decisions show that this distinction is increasingly taken into account by the judges. From 2006, the sale of seed is legalized, the sale and public consumption remains illegal, and private cultivation and use are permitted.
Several studies have been conducted to study the effects of cannabis on patients suffering from diseases like cancer, AIDS, multiple sclerosis, seizures or asthma. This research was conducted by various Spanish agencies at the Universidad Complutense de Madrid headed by Manuel Guzman, the hospital of La Laguna in Tenerife led neurosurgeon Luis González Feria or the University of Barcelona.
Several cannabis consumption clubs and user associations have been established throughout Spain. These clubs, the first of which was created in 1991, are non-profit associations who grow cannabis and sell it at cost to its members. The legal status of these clubs is uncertain: in 1997, four members of the first club, the Barcelona Ramón Santos Association of Cannabis Studies, were sentenced to 4 months in prison and a 3000 euro fine, while at about the same time, the court of Bilbao ruled that another club was not in violation of the law. The Andalusian regional government also commissioned a study by criminal law professors on the “Therapeutic use of cannabis and the creation of establishments of acquisition and consumption. The study concluded that such clubs are legal as long as they distribute only to a restricted list of legal adults, provide only the amount of drugs necessary for immediate consumption, and not earn a profit. The Andalusian government never formally accepted these guidelines and the legal situation of the clubs remains insecure. In 2006 and 2007, members of these clubs were acquitted in trial for possession and sale of cannabis and the police were ordered to return seized crops.
In the United Kingdom, if you are arrested or taken to court for possession of cannabis, you are asked if there are any mitigating factors to explain why it is in your possession. It is unknown whether this is solely a formality, or if an excuse of medical usage has ever been used successfully to reduce the penalty issued. However, in the United Kingdom, possession of small quantities of cannabis does not usually warrant an arrest or court appearance (street cautions or fines are often given out instead). Under UK law, certain cannabinoids are permitted medically, but these are strictly controlled with many provisos under the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971 (in the 1985 amendments). The British Medical Association’s official stance is “users of cannabis for medical purposes should be aware of the risks, should enroll for clinical trials, and should talk to their doctors about new alternative treatments; but we do not advise them to stop.”
Medical Marijuana Dispensary
In the United States federal level of government, cannabis per se has been made criminal by implementation of the Controlled Substances Act which classifies cannabis as a Schedule I drug, the strictest classification on par with heroin, LSD and ecstasy, and the Supreme Court ruled in 2005 that the Commerce Clause of the U.S. Constitution allowed the government to ban the use of cannabis, including medical use. The United States Food and Drug Administration states “marijuana has a high potential for abuse, has no currently accepted medical use in treatment in the United States, and has a lack of accepted safety for use under medical supervision”.
Only one American (for-profit) Company, Cannabis Science Inc., is working towards getting FDA approval for cannabis based medicines (including smoked cannabis). They want to have medical cannabis approved by the FDA so anyone, regardless of state, will have access to the medicine . Also, there is one non-profit organization, the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies (MAPS) working towards getting Cannabis approved by the FDA for PTSD.
Nineteen states have legalized medical cannabis or effectively decriminalized it: Alaska, Arizona, California, Colorado, Connecticut,Delaware, Hawaii, Maine, Michigan, Montana, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont,Virginia, Washington; and Washington D.C. Maryland allows for reduced or no penalties if cannabis use has a medical basis. Despite its legality in Washington, and Michigan, an employee can still be fired if they test positive on a drug test, despite having a doctor’s recommendation. California, Colorado, New Mexico, Maine, Rhode Island, Montana, and Michigan are currently the only states to utilize dispensaries to sell medical cannabis. Connecticut will be the eighth but has yet to issue any licenses. California’s medical cannabis industry took in about $2 billion a year and generated $100 million in state sales taxes during 2008 with an estimated 2,100 dispensaries, co-operatives, wellness clinics and taxi delivery services in the sector colloquially known as “cannabusiness”.
On 19 October 2009 the US Deputy Attorney General issued a US Department of Justice memorandum to “All United States Attorneys” providing clarification and guidance to federal prosecutors in US States that have enacted laws authorizing the medical use of marijuana. The document is intended solely as “a guide to the exercise of investigative and prosecutorial discretion and as guidance on resource allocation and federal priorities.” The US Deputy Attorney General David W. Ogden provided seven criteria, the application of which acts as a guideline to prosecutors and federal agents to ascertain whether a patients use, or their caregivers provision, of medical cannabis “represents part of a recommended treatment regiment consistent with applicable state law”, and recommends against prosecuting patients using medical cannabis products according to state laws. Not applying those criteria, the Dep. Attorney General Ogden concludes, would likely be “an inefficient use of limited federal resources”. The memorandum does not change any laws. Sale of cannabis remains illegal under federal law. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s position, that marijuana has no accepted value in the treatment of any disease in the United States, has also remained the same.
The Health and Human Services Division of the Federal government of the United States holds a patent US 6630507 for medical cannabis.
The Health and Human Services Division of the federal government holds a patent US 6630507 for medical cannabis. The patent, “Cannabinoids as antioxidants and neuroprotectants”, issued October 2003 reads:
|“||Cannabinoids have been found to have antioxidant properties, unrelated to NMDA receptor antagonism. This new found property makes cannabinoids useful in the treatment and prophylaxis of wide variety of oxidation associated diseases, such as ischemic, age-related, inflammatoryand autoimmune diseases. The cannabinoids are found to have particular application as neuroprotectants, for example in limiting neurological damage following ischemic insults, such as stroke and trauma, or in the treatment of neurodegenerative diseases, such as Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease and HIV dementia… .(source: Wikipedia)|