Realising the French medical cannabis market
France has one of the highest rates of cannabis consumers in the world. More than one in ten (11%) French citizens are cannabis users, according to the European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction. Coincidentally, the country also has one of the most stringent cannabis laws in Europe and has maintained its conservative attitude even after it legalised cannabis-based pharmaceutical drugs in 2013. The policy has meant little to patients as products are still unavailable due to pricing disputes.
Despite the drawbacks, France’s medical cannabis market is still among the largest in Europe – projected to be worth €9.5b by 2028.
As one of Europe’s most populous nations and leading economies, France holds huge promise as it could have a big influence on the continent’s medical cannabis market and policy. But, in order to actualise the value of the medical cannabis market, France must establish a clear and fluid medical cannabis programme, which supports physicians, patients and private companies.
There were three important developments in the past six months that indicate France may finally be moving towards a more open medical cannabis programme.
- Commitment to change – In September 2018, the French National Agency for the Safety of Medicines and Health Products set up a special committee to study the necessity and feasibility of medical cannabis within France’s borders. The committee will hold its first public hearing and present initial findings before the end of 2018, which will provide the necessary reading material for Cannabis Europa Paris. The committee is a breakthrough step towards medical-cannabis regulation. Such regulations would require amending laws and laying a groundwork of policies for issuing product licences and setting market prices with patients’ interests in mind.
- Shifting attitudes – The following month, poll results found that the majority of French people (82%) were in favour of medical cannabis, while 62% backed making it legally available in all forms.
- Political persuasions – In May 2018, Minister of Health Agnès Buzyn began to explore the possibility of legalising medical cannabis, saying France had “fallen behind” on medical cannabis research.
These progressive shifts are the seeds that could spur an increase in public demand for medical cannabis, and that could be the deciding push the French government needs in order to regulate the market. Something similar unfolded in the UK this year after high-profile cases of children with epilepsy being denied treatment sparked public outcry and resulted in the legalisation of medical cannabis.
If France successfully regulates medical cannabis, it would join the UK as another conservative nation in western Europe shifting to a more progressive stance and policy. Given the stable and healthy relations between France and Germany, which has become a European industry leader since legalising medical cannabis in March 2017, the three nations could ignite a wave of regulatory changes in their neighbouring countries.
The New Year will be a pivotal year for France’s medical cannabis programme, and the debate will begin as early as 8 February when the Cannabis Europa conference is held in Paris for the first time. The event, hosted at the aptly-named La Maison de la Chimie (The House of Chemistry), will gather the best from the spheres of policy, industry and academia to find a way of navigating the complex and often confusing European medical cannabis landscape, in order to help businesses succeed in this unique market.