Yes, you read that right! And unless you are French, we bet you are really jealous right now. However, it’s true; in 2021, the French government will begin a medical cannabis experiment that involves giving out free cannabis.
Currently, the French government is estimating that the first free prescriptions could go out as early as March 2021. As of right now, there is a time limit of two years on the experiment, as it is set to go either through March 21, 2021 or through the first prescription whichever comes first. It will be overseen by the Ministry of Health and Solidarity.
Nicolas Authier, a university professor and chair of the French Agency for the Safety of Medicines and Health Products’ (or L’Agence nationale de sécurité du médicament et des produits de santé [ANSM]) medical cannabis committee, said that he believes “an invitation to tender for the selection of cannabis-based products” is coming soon, probably within the month, and that the suppliers “will be foreign and in collaboration with pharmaceutical laboratories established in France and licensed for narcotics.”
He added, “Five more months of work before the first prescriptions, but France is now officially committed to access to medical cannabis.”
There are still some stipulations for the program that have not yet been decided, and will be outlined by the general director of the French Agency for the Safety of Medicines and Health Products. Among the issues that will be decided are the form and specifications of the cannabis-based products, including characteristics and composition; the list of conditions that will be eligible for participation; and procedures for storing, distributing, importing, and controlling the cannabis.
Companies that choose to participate in this new medical cannabis experiment will be responsible for providing their own product free of charge, and even though the cannabis will be free, it will still need to comply with pharmaceutical standards such as the Good Manufacturing Practice and other regulations the French government has put in place. The ANSM will be responsible for implementing a patient registry that will be updated, with the consent of patients, by doctors and pharmacies.
There are also some restrictions in place that could keep patients from getting access to this deal. As is the case throughout Europe, medical cannabis will not be given out freely. It is not given out as an alternative to other medicines by choice, but rather as a last resort. Additionally, doctors and pharmacies who want to get involved will have to complete a training program, and then will have to volunteer for the trial, and companies that are interested in getting involved will have to provide their own cannabis. Also, a budget for the program still needs to be approved by French parliament.
Regardless of the potential hurdles, this is a groundbreaking step towards socialized medical cannabis around the globe.