Today we are continuing our discussion on Europe and its seemingly inevitable march towards the legalisation of cannabis. This week we’ll be focusing on Poland, Czechia, Denmark and Ireland.
We touched on France, Germany, Norway, Portugal, Switzerland and Spain in part one last week. You can read more here.
This week we’ll begin with Ireland. There has been a great deal of activity in Ireland over the past 20 months, primarily because of the tireless effort and work of people like Vera Twomey.
Vera is battling to get her daughter Ava home to Ireland. Young Ava is currently forced to seek medical refuge in the Hague in Holland where she can freely and legally access vitally needed and “life-saving” cannabinoids that reduce her seizures dramatically. You see, Ava has Dravet syndrome, a rare form of childhood epilepsy, and her medicine is currently illegal in the UK.
I was lucky enough to be present when Vera met Josh Stanley at the Hemp Museum in Dublin back in 2016. The Stanley brothers are responsible for specifically breeding a strain of Hemp high in CBD (Cannabidiol) originally called hippie’s disappointment later being renamed Charlotte’s web after young Charlotte Figi.
Northern Ireland also seems to be making more strides towards cannabis legalisation – in a large part thanks to the amazing work being done by Charlotte Caldwell. Her son Billy also has severe epilepsy.
Charlotte has been campaigning for her son and others to have access to medical cannabis. You may remember her flying back from the states with a CBD rich medication that had been legally purchased but once it arrived back in Northern Ireland it was no longer a legal product. Charlotte was still allowed to pass through customs unmolested.
Charlotte and Billy are currently on a road trip around the UK meeting patients and activists.
Czechia (Czech Republic)
Czechia (formerly Czechoslovakia) was one of the first countries in the former communist region to legalise cannabis for medicinal purposes back in 2013. However, this wasn’t the countries first attempt to allow possession and consumption of cannabis. When the republic was first founded it implemented, what was at the time a rather progressive and revolutionary national drug policy.
It sought to legalise the possession and consumption criminalising only the production and sale of drugs. This effectively decriminalised them for 6 years until the country was forced in 1999 to ratify its legislation to bring it in line with the UN single convention on narcotic drugs so that the nation could join the European Union, a requirement of membership.
Their current medical system allows for cannabis to be prescribed. However, it does seem somewhat intentionally limiting and bound in bureaucratic red tape. Patients are currently only allowed up to 30 grams of dried flower per month, but this is not covered by their health insurers. This is helping the black market trade in the country. Read more.
Poland’s legal medical program went into effect in late 2017 and authorises about 90% of the countries 15,000 pharmacies to produce and distribute cannabis-derived medications. However, it restricts patients and operators from cultivating their own plants, which could very well lead to high prices and a rather limited supply.
“Polish patients will have very limited access to this type of treatment because we don’t produce medical marijuana domestically,” Doctor Marek Bachanski, a paediatric neurologist and Poland’s leading medical cannabis practitioner.
Poland is currently having to import cannabis from The Netherlands for the 300,000+ qualifying medical patients as the country has no national cultivation infrastructure plan.
The law allows for pharmacies to sell preparations only, so no flower. They can, however stock resins, tinctures, concentrates and other non-herbal forms of cannabis for medical use.
The language in the legislation deliberately doesn’t list any specific conditions so that doctors have more liberty to prescribe cannabis-based medicine for a wider variety of conditions. It also allows for new research to lead to new prescriptions without having to go via the legislators.
Denmark is an interesting case, as up until a 2004 crackdown there had been a policy of relative tolerance towards cannabis, especially towards its trade in Freetown Christiania.
Christiania is an autonomous anarchist district in the heart of the nation’s capital, Copenhagen. It was created when the now residents squatted the disused military barracks back in 1971.
Even after the policy of tolerance ended, the illegal cannabis trade still boomed in the area. However, with increased gangland activity and various illicit entities vying for control the residents, it was decided in 2016, following the shooting of two police officers and a bystander, to tear down the market stalls that had previously sold hashish and cannabis.
This is further evidence that it is prohibition that causes the violent issues around the sale of cannabis, not the substance itself. #ProhibitionIsTheProblem
Since the closing of the cannabis markets in Christiania, the debate in the country has intensified primarily around medicinal applications. From January 1st, 2018 Denmark started a 4-year trial in which doctors will be allowed to prescribe cannabis-derived medications for conditions such as Chronic pain, MS and Nausea.
It was announced recently that the Canadian company Aurora Cannabis will also set up one of Europe’s largest cannabis greenhouses in Denmark. The planned site will be over 1,000,000 square feet and this will make the company the largest cultivator in Europe. The company is targeting an annual production and distribution of over 120 million grams!
So with Tilray in Portugal and Aurora in Denmark both aiming to supply the whole of the European cannabis market, It begs the question why are these foreign conglomerates and corporations allowed to produce cannabis on mass for medical use in these countries while those nations governments are still persecuting and actively targeting individuals for doing the same – threatening them with incarceration and a life-long label of being considered a criminal by society.
This hypocrisy will make multi-billionaires but will impoverish many European countries and their citizens who may be forced to buy excessively priced products that aren’t as effective as whole plant extracts.
Cannabis is medicine – and not just because someone tells you it is. Cannabis is medicine if it helps alleviate any of the symptoms of your condition. You should get to determine what works for you, not some corrupt government official or multi-conglomerate corporate CEO.
That is immoral and only seeks to perpetuate the suffering of millions.