Medicinal cannabis / Reuters

Medicinal cannabis could be prescribed and available to patients in Spain within six months

The move has been approved by the Spanish parliament today, 21 June, despite PP and Vox voting against the measure and ERC and Bildu abstaining because they wanted it to go further

ÁLVARO SOTO Madrid

The Spanish parliament has approved the use of cannabis for medicinal use, a move which was supported by PSOE, Unidas Podemos, Ciudadanos, PNV and PDECAT, while PP and Vox voted against and ERC and Bildu, who wanted the text to go further, abstained.

This has brought the use of cannabis for medical purposes one step closer, because the Ministry of Health had already said it would accept parliament's conclusions. The issue is likely to be debated next week and then the Spanish Medications and Health Products Agency (Aemps) will have six months to draw up the definitive regulations.

Today’s decision (21 June) recommends that patients with multiple sclerosis, some forms of epilepsy, those suffering nausea and vomiting after chemotherapy, those with endometriosis, oncological pain and non-oncological chronic pain (including neuropathic pain) will be able to use extracts or standardised preparations of cannabis (oils, inhaled or medication) to ease their symptoms and these will also be available for other health conditions if medical studies support it.

Prescribed by doctors

The document strongly stresses that cannabis can only be prescribed by doctors (but not only those in the health service) and it recommends that it should be dispensed by hospital and health centre pharmacies. However, it also opens the door to the idea that normal pharmacies can also dispense it if they are prepared to do so. The cannabis treatments must be for a defined period of time and the details of patients who are prescribed the drug must be entered on a register.

The text also makes it very clear that cannabis can only be used for medical purposes, never recreational ones.

Not regulated

At the moment, as the use of cannabis is not regulated, it is only available on the black market. “Patients have to go to a dealer to get it. We have placed these sick people in the hands of a drug trafficker or a friend who grows it clandestinely, instead of it being prescribed by a health care professional,” said Manuel Guzmán, the vice-president of the Spanish Medicinal Cannabis Observatory, who welcomes the move but believes it is long overdue.

“Doctors have been able to prescribe other therapies which are much stronger than cannabis. It’s like banning beer while letting people drink whisky, vodka or rum,” he said.