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For all the progress toward a European Union, there is still no unified approach to medical marijuana in Europe, according to a report in the Wall Street Journal.
Cannabis is legal for treating certain illnesses in the Netherlands, but Sweden, for example, doesn’t recognize any medical use for the herb at all.
Legal expert Catherine Sandvos of the Dutch Cannabis Bureau (a government agency providing high-quality medical marijuana) told the Journal that cannabis is just “too controversial and too political” to even be on the European agenda.
The Dutch have led the continent in legalizing medical marijuana, which is treated separately from the recreational cannabis available at Amsterdam’s coffee shops.
Dutch Supply Italy, Finland and Germany with Medical Marijuana
The Cannabis Bureau — the only institution of its kind in Europe — was established by the government in 2003. “The state realized that so many people wanted to use cannabis, so it said ‘Why not give it to them via prescription instead of accessing the drug illegally,” Sandvos told the Journal
Among other things, the Cannabis Bureau makes sure medical marijuana is tested for the presence of possibly harmful adulterants such as pesticides or bacteria. (We’re probably seeing the near-future of California and other states allowing dispensaries when we study the eminently practical Dutch model.)
The Bureau, besides supplying cannabis to all the pharmacies in the Netherlands, also supplies Italy, Finland and Germany through the Ministry of Health of each country. The Bureau’s records show it sells around 100 kilos (220 pounds) of marijuana per year.
Britain, Ireland, Sweden Have Harsh Approach
Marijuana is illegal, even for medical purposes, in the United Kingdom. Two seriously ill men, Barry Quayle and Reay Wales, lost court cases in 2005 after having been arrested for using cannabis, which they found to be more effective than prescription drugs.
The situation is very politicized in Britain, as shown by the recent dismissal of Professor David Nutt, chief drug adviser in the U.K., merely for saying cannabis is less dangerous than alcohol.
Will Consensus Eventually Be Reached?
One European expert expressed optimism that the continent would eventually agree on the usefulness of medical marijuana.
“I can imagine European citizens will eventually think cannabis is a good medicine and that it should be accessible to people who suffer from serious pain as a result of HIV, multiple sclerosis or other grave illnesses,” said Brendan Hughes, senior legal analyst at the European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction in Lisbon, Portugal.