Updated on December 28, 2018. Medical content reviewed by Dr. Joseph Rosado, MD, M.B.A, Chief Medical Officer
As nations throughout Europe change their stance on medical marijuana, you may be surprised to find out France is a staunch holdout. Not only have they not developed a medicinal cannabis program, but they have no immediate plans to do so.
France has some of the strictest anti-drug laws on the continent, and marijuana is lumped in with other notoriously illicit narcotics. Many French lawmakers feel decriminalizing cannabis or legalizing medical marijuana would open the floodgates and break down the structures and rules of society. However, the issue is continually brought up by activist groups, and some government officials are in favor of change.
Although cannabis remains illegal even for medical use, an optimistic change took place in 2013. The Ministry of Health amended the Public Code of Health to allow doctors to prescribe cannabis-based medication. The enaction of this is a small change, but it’s enough to give French patients in need of medical marijuana a sense of hope.
Even if a patient is prescribed Sativex, the only cannabis-based medication authorized by the National Agency for the Safety of Drugs and Health Products (ANSM), that doesn’t mean they can use medical marijuana. The amendment to the Public Code of Health makes it clear the cannabis is still an illegal substance.
The prescription of Sativex is limited — only patients with multiple sclerosis (MS) are qualified to receive it. Some claim there are more effective medications available to MS patients, but cannabis can treat many of its symptoms. Sativex is a sublingual spray that contains equal amounts THC and CBD. Patients using it are often able to stop taking anti-inflammatories and prescription pain meds.
Even though a Sativex prescription is legal, it’s still strictly controlled. This makes getting one extremely difficult for patients. To pursue this course of treatment, patients experiencing severe muscle spasms and spasticity due to multiple sclerosis must do the following:
Even after all this, Sativex is rarely prescribed.
If a patient gets a prescription for Sativex, they should check with a pharmacy ahead of time to ensure they carry it. They’ll be able to fill a 30-day supply, but will have to return to their physician after six months to get their prescription refilled. These are the same rules that apply to opiate-based medications.
Not all physicians can prescribe cannabis-based medication in France. Since the only qualified condition to receive this type of medicine is MS, patients who want Sativex will need to see either a neurologist or a multiple sclerosis specialist. The physician must have a license to prescribe narcotics and be certified by the ANSM to prescribe cannabis-based medications.
Enacting a medical marijuana system is a hot-button issue in France. There are dedicated supporters in favor, as well as detractors who wish to keep the debate closed. You can read more about the Ministry of Health’s stance on Sativex and medical cannabis on ANSM’s website. To get updates on the latest medical marijuana legislation, check out Cannabis Without Borders, active supporters of change in France.
As increasingly more countries institute medical marijuana programs, we hope France follows suit. Be sure to get the latest info by keeping up with MarijuanaDoctors.com. We’ll keep you updated on any changes that occur, including proposed legislation before the French Parliament.
You may also want to check out our resources section. We provide ample information for those who are interested in researching the benefits of medical marijuana. We also have an informative blog, where we answer tricky questions you may be afraid to ask.