2021 marks the start of a historic experiment for France. The latter authorizes the use of therapeutic cannabis as part of a clinical trial on patients with specific pathologies. This revives discussions around hemp, its cultivation, consumption and sale for the purpose of purely therapeutic use. Read our special report to learn more about CBD news.
Therapeutic cannabis, what are we talking about?
Difference between medical cannabis and recreational cannabis
When we talk about cannabis, we often think of the joint and the feeling of being high. But be careful, it is important to distinguish between therapeutic use and “pleasure” use of cannabis.
Therapeutic cannabis comprises around ten phyto-cannabinoid molecules including the most famous, CBD (cannabidiol) and THC (tetrahydrocannabinol). It is used only for medical purposes and is heavily supervised.
These two molecules, extracted directly from the hemp plant, speak for themselves and are not subject to the same legislation.
Indeed, CBD is legal, because it does not represent any danger (non-psychotropic nor addictive) and can be used as a “food supplement” thanks to its multiple natural virtues. This is the case, for example, to relieve neuropathic and muscle pain, reduce nausea, get a good night’s sleep or even free yourself from stress.
THC is considered illegal, because he is responsible psychoactive effects and can cause addiction. This is what is considered to be recreational cannabis.
In France, the medical use of hemp remains controversial. Cannabidiol alone is not recognized as a possible treatment and THC is subject to strict regulations which prohibit its use.
Many patients suffering from neurodegenerative diseases and whose drug treatments are no longer sufficient, deplore these laws. Despite the restrictions, it is not uncommon for some of them to use therapeutic cannabis for self-medication to calm their daily ailments or the side effects of their treatments.
The therapeutic use of cannabis
Used for thousands of years in various civilizations for therapeutic purposes, cannabis has experienced a decline throughout the 20th century. This is mainly due to prohibitionist policies and the evolution of modern medicine.
Yet it is theone of the oldest plants in the pharmacopoeia, its first use dating back to 2,800 BC. Possessing natural medicinal properties (anti-inflammatory, analgesics, antispasmodics, antiemetics or even anxiolytics), it has come back to the fore for several decades.
It is partly thanks to an Israeli chemist who revived the medical interest around cannabis in 1964. A pioneer, he succeeded in isolating THC, to reduce the psychotropic effects.
Today, many clinical trials are taking place to try to reintroduce it into a therapeutic course. Indeed, it is being studied to be offered as an alternative to patients with certain pathologies (multiple sclerosis, epilepsy, etc.).
It comes in different forms and is only available under prescription. France remains on the sidelines and only authorizes, for the moment, Sativex, a drug intended for people with multiple sclerosis and severe spasticities. It is made up of CBD and a low level of THC.
A first experiment with hemp for therapeutic use in France
France is taking a step towards the future. On December 12, 2018, the CSST (Temporary Specialized Scientific Committee) set up by National Agency for Health and Medicines, considered relevant the authorization of the use of cannabis in a therapeutic setting for patients in specific clinical situations.
After a postponement linked to the health crisis, the National Assembly gave its agreement on October 9, 2020 to start the experiment. The objective is to determine whether therapeutic cannabis has its place to become an alternative in the context of certain pathologies. It also makes it possible to initiate discussions around the development of the hemp industry, its cultivation and its use.
France will begin this two-year trial in the first quarter of 2021 (scheduled for the end of January). 3,000 patients with different pathologies will be examined. The therapeutic action of cannabis will come either as a natural alternative when drug treatments are no longer effective or to relieve the side effects caused by taking certain drugs.
The clinical situations concerned are:
- patients with spasticity and multiple sclerosis
- people with severe neuropathic pain and epilepsy
- the care given in ontological support
- palliative situations
The use of cannabis for medical purposes will be in the form of capsules, oils or vaporization made from dried flowers. This experiment is a real step forward for France and sends a message of “hope” to patients who suffer from these pathologies on a daily basis.
Medicinal cannabis globally
Depending on the country, the legislation differs. While some prescribe medical cannabis only for palliative care, others use it more widely to combat the pain and symptoms of degenerative and neuropathic diseases.
Less flexible, some countries (especially China) only allow the prescription of therapeutic cannabis based on CBD, THC being prohibited. France ranks as the 22nd country to follow an experiment on medical cannabis. However, it still lags behind its European neighbors, in particular the Netherlands, a pioneer, which allows cannabis for both recreational and therapeutic use. Germany, Austria, Norway, the United Kingdom and the Czech Republic have already authorized the legalization of cannabis for medical use.
At the international level, several countries or states have taken the plunge. This is particularly the case for California, a pioneer American state to authorize its use in the territory since 1996.
Following this example, 33 states now legalize medical cannabis. Canada and Chile have also taken the plunge for several years now.
On the other side of the globe, Australia has chosen to join the movement since 2016.
Will France follow this momentum in favor of therapeutic cannabis? See you in two years, after the experiment!