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Which countries have been taking steps towards medical marijuana (MMJ) legalization that could potentially be finalized in 2021 or shortly after? This question is being asked by patients all over the world who would see a massive benefit in their quality of life if they could avail of medical marijuana treatment.
Medical marijuana is now proven beyond doubt to be a very effective treatment for a whole host of painful and debilitating conditions. Patients are getting a whole new lease on life thanks to MMJ treatment, which is extremely effective in pain management and symptom reduction.
MMJ can improve the symptoms of a large number of health conditions, such as epilepsy, headache, chronic pain, insomnia, glaucoma, epilepsy, Alzheimer’s disease, Crohn’s disease, arthritis, seizures, nausea, and multiple sclerosis.
Medical marijuana has been legalized in most US states. The minority of states in which MMJ is still illegal seem certain to follow suit over the next few years. The weight of evidence demonstrating the wide array of benefits of MMJ treatment is simply too compelling to ignore.
Plenty of other nations around the world have by now also legalized medical marijuana. Several countries have sensible, liberal MMJ programs that their citizens can avail of. But many countries have legal MMJ almost in name only, with limiting and restrictive laws that make MMJ available to only a minority of people with very specific medical conditions.
All of the countries that look like they may make more progress towards legalizing medical marijuana in 2021 fall into the category of having some amount of current MMJ legality. But that legality tends to involve such restrictive programs that almost none of their citizens qualify, and for those who do, the product range available is extremely limited.
Medical marijuana legalization is not usually a sudden, one-fell-swoop type of situation, especially when the decision is being made at a national level. Nations are large entities that contain a wide range of conflicting pressure groups within their borders.
In the US, for example, medical marijuana is still not legal at a federal level, but most US states have now legalized medical marijuana. Nations as a whole tend to move more slowly than individual states. For example, Oklahoma went from a staunchly anti-MMJ state to a very liberal legal MMJ state almost overnight, when voters approved State Question 788 in 2018.
Sativex, which is a mouth spray containing chemical extracts from the cannabis plant, is currently available as a treatment in France. But a full medical marijuana program is yet to be legalized and implemented in the country.
Former Minister for Health Agnes Buzyn is an influential figure in French public health policy and has stated her support for an MMJ program on several occasions. Also, the French National Agency for the Safety of Medicines and Health Products has concluded that it would be “appropriate to authorize the use of therapeutic cannabis… in certain clinical situations.” Given these high-profile endorsements, it seems only a matter of time before France fully legalizes medical marijuana.
The Irish Medical Cannabis Access Programme is operating on a pilot basis for the next five years. Only a medical consultant (and not a general practitioner) can prescribe a marijuana-based treatment. The only patients eligible for treatment with MMJ in Ireland are those with severe, treatment-resistant epilepsy; intractable nausea and vomiting associated with chemotherapy; or spasticity associated with MS who have not responded to standard treatments.
Ireland’s legal MMJ program is preliminary and very limited. However, it is a start, and seems likely to expand once the initial pilot stage is complete.
The UK technically legalized treatment with medicines derived from marijuana in 2018. But the country’s MMJ program has been derided for being MMJ-legal in name only. Only three MMJ derived medications are available to patients: Sativex (only for MS patients), Nabilone (only for treating chemotherapy side-effects), and Epidiolex (only for epilepsy patients). These medications are only prescribed if all other treatment options have failed.
Alex Fraser, patient access specialist at Grow Biotech, echoes the disillusionment felt by millions of UK citizens when he says, “We’ve seen a huge reluctance from doctors and pharmacies to risk their licenses by facilitating access. The vast majority of people (…) are still being forced to rely on the black market to source their medication.” Given the public outcry and strong demand for MMJ treatment in the UK, it is only a matter of time before the country widens and improves its MMJ laws.
Marijuana laws are somewhat unclear and indecisive in many countries. Some countries have fully legalized recreational marijuana. However, quite a few countries do not have a specific legal marijuana law, but have made marijuana usage effectively legal, with public marijuana consumption common and never punished.
The following is a list of countries in which recreational marijuana is legal, or effectively legal: