Yep, you read that right. And unless you’re French, I bet you’re really jealous right now. But it’s true; in 2021, the French government will begin a medical cannabis experiment that involves giving out free cannabis.
Last week, the French government published a decree that announces the experiment, which enthusiasts and patients have been waiting for, officially. According to their announcement, up to 3,000 patients will be participating and eligible for receiving the free product.
Nicolas Authier, a university professor and chair of the French Agency for the Safety of Medicines and Health Products’ (or L’Agence nationale de sécurité du médicament et des produits de santé [ANSM]) medical cannabis committee, said in an interview with Marijuana Business Daily that he believes “an invitation to tender for the selection of cannabis-based products” is coming soon, probably within the month, and that suppliers “will probably be foreign … in collaboration with pharmaceutical laboratories established in France and licensed for narcotics.”
“Five more months of work before the first prescriptions,” he added, “but France is now officially committed to access to medical cannabis.”
The Fine Print
Currently, the French government is estimating that the first free prescriptions could go out as early as March 2021. As of right now, there is a time limit of two years on the experiment, as it is set to go either through March 21, 2021 or through the first prescription whichever comes first. It will be overseen by the Ministry of Health and Solidarity.
There are still some stipulations for the program that have not yet been decided, and will be outlined by the general director of the French Agency for the Safety of Medicines and Health Products. Among the issues that will be decided are the form and specifications of the cannabis-based products, including characteristics and composition; the list of conditions that will be eligible for participation; and procedures for storing, distributing, importing, and controlling the cannabis.
Companies that choose to participate in this new medical cannabis experiment will be responsible for providing their own product free of charge, and even though the cannabis will be free, it will still need to comply with pharmaceutical standards such as the Good Manufacturing Practice and other regulations the French government has put in place.
The ANSM will be responsible for implementing a patient registry that will be updated, with the consent of patients, by doctors and pharmacies.
There are also some restrictions in place that could keep patients from getting access to this deal. As is the case throughout Europe, medical cannabis will not be given out freely. It is not given out as an alternative to other medicines by choice, but rather as a last resort.
Additionally, doctors and pharmacies who want to get involved will have to complete a training program, and then will have to volunteer for the trial, and companies that are interested in getting involved will have to provide their own cannabis. Also, a budget for the program still needs to be approved by French parliament.
Still, regardless of these potential setbacks, and the fact that cannabis in general is conservatively prescribed in France, this groundbreaking experiment could set the stage for socialized cannabis medicine across the globe.