Behind the experimentation on medical cannabis in France, economic ambitions and political vagueness


Substances and dependencies. For the first time in more than fifty years, cannabis will no longer be considered solely as a narcotic in France. It will become, for 3,000 patients in “therapeutic dead end”, a drug as part of an experiment on medical cannabis, which will begin on March 31. For two years, this will be used, according to the National Agency for Health and Medicines and Health Products (ANSM) which is piloting the project, to be determined. “The relevance and feasibility of making cannabis for medical use available in France”.

Initially, this will consist of laying the foundations for a distribution circuit and securing its stages. Cannabis-based medicines (in the form of dried flower spray or oil) will have to be imported, stored and prescribed by previously trained doctors and then collected by patients from pharmacies.

But above all, for the ANSM, it will be a question of evaluating the medical virtues of this plant for patients in a palliative situation or suffering from multiple sclerosis or resistant epilepsy. A register will be created to record the benefits and adverse effects. The priority, we repeat at the agency, are these 3,000 patients, and it is for them that it must be launched as quickly as possible after the delays accumulated since December 2018, then exacerbated by the crisis. sanitary. Even if it means settling the legal and political contradictions along the way.

A paradoxical situation

Because the paradox of this experiment is that it begins in a country where it is still forbidden to grow, or even to transform, cannabis. The decree which sets its framework, signed on October 9 by the Ministry of Health, only concerns importation and distribution. Article R5132-86 of the Public Health Code, which prohibits all use of cannabis, including therapeutic, remains in force, effectively preventing any company based in France from being able to supply cannabis-based medicines.

The only French companies selected by the ANSM call for tenders, such as the Boiron laboratory, will be responsible for the distribution and storage of the product, in “tandem” with those chosen to provide it free of charge: multinationals Canadian (Tilray and Aurora Cannabis), Israeli (Panaxia) or Australian (Little Green Pharma), specialized for years in the production and export of medical cannabis. Tilray already supplies Germany, the UK, Spain and Portugal and is worth several billion dollars.

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