Early in 2017, Victoria became the first Australian state to legalize medical marijuana. Other states and territories in the country quickly followed suit. As with many countries worldwide, the discussion surrounding this important issue was long and protracted. Australia currently has to import medical cannabis from overseas, once a patient has been prescribed it by an authorized medic. The change in the law means that not only will the importation process be sped up, but also that Australia is now allowed to start growing its own medical cannabis. This means obviously that waiting time for patients prescribed with medical marijuana will be cut. Good news indeed!
Portugal was the first actual country to legalize medical marijuana, in 2001. The U.S. state of California, though, was way ahead of the game, legalizing MMJ way back in 1996. The next few countries to follow where Portugal blazed a trail were the Czech Republic, Finland, Holland, Spain, and Greece. Many more countries have since jumped on the increasingly popular bandwagon. California and a few more states – including Washington D.C. – have just recently legalized marijuana for recreational as well as medicinal use. No doubt other countries will keep a close eye on California to see how this legalization plays out and will then probably, in time, do the same. If you’re interested to know which countries currently allow marijuana for medical purposes, have a read here.
So which country might be the next one to legalize medical marijuana? Let’s take a look at Ireland first. This little country is taking big steps towards legalization. It’s a slow process though – any proposed bills have to pass through long and drawn out parliamentary procedures before they have a chance of becoming law. The bill for legalization did pass its second reading in Parliament at the end of 2017, though, so progress is being made. The current law states that the Minister for Health can grant a special license for the use of MMJ, if he sees fit. The first such license was awarded in 2016 to a two-year-old boy with Dravet Syndrome, which allowed the treatment that he’d started in Colorado to be continued. A more recent case in Ireland made headlines when Ava Twomey’s mother – Vera – set out on a walk from her home in Cork to Dublin (some 186 miles) in order to raise awareness of her child’s plight. Ava (7) suffers from Dravet Syndrome, too, which meant that she was having several, severely debilitating epileptic seizures a day. Shortly before Christmas 2017, Ava was granted a license for the medical cannabis she needed and so the family was able to return home to Ireland from the Netherlands, where they’d been living in order to access the cannabis oil Ava needed. Since taking the cannabis oil on a regular basis, Ava’s seizures have stopped completely. A heart-warming story indeed and one which will surely increase the chances of Ireland being one of the next countries to legalize medical marijuana.
Ireland’s geographical neighbor, the U.K., could also well be in the race for the next country to legalize MMJ. Like Ireland, the U.K. currently has very strict rules under which CBD oil can be given to patients. Cannabidiol was recently re-classified as a medicine by the Medicines & Healthcare Regulatory Agency. An 11-year-old boy named Billy Caldwell was the first child to benefit from this change in law. Billy had been suffering from epileptic seizures every day since he was baby; sometimes as many as 100 fits in one day. He was first given cannabis oil in California (where, of course, medical marijuana had been legal for some time), which resulted in a dramatic reduction in his number of seizures and then a complete cessation of them. Back in the U.K. (Northern Ireland, actually, but it’s part of the U.K. rather than Ireland), his own GP saw the wisdom in continuing with Billy’s treatment and so prescribed him the cannabidiol. Research is currently ongoing in the form of clinical trials around a pure form of cannabis, which is specifically engineered for medicinal purposes. If these trials prove successful, the U.K. will almost certainly be well on the way to fully legalizing medical marijuana.
France is often seen as a fairly laid-back, enlightened, and libertarian country in many respects, but to date it’s somewhat behind its European counterparts when it comes to marijuana. Sativex, a cannabis-based prescription mouth spray, was only approved in France in 2014; it was the sixteenth European country to legalize this particular treatment, which is mainly prescribed for MS sufferers. However, with a newly elected liberal-minded president – Emmanuel Macron – word is that France could well be one of the next countries to legalize MMJ. He has already eliminated compulsory prison sentences for petty marijuana offenses and, during his campaign to become president, Macron professed a desire to relax other French laws relating to marijuana. So this country does have a bit of way to go yet, but if the new president follows through with his promises, we could certainly see France as one of the next countries to legalize medical marijuana.
With so many countries now following the example set by the state of California, surely it’s only a question of time before most of the world accepts that MMJ is the way forward in the treatment and relief of many acute diseases.