Belgium – New legislation in the making on cannabis for medical use
In light of the growing international scientific consensus on the positive medicinal effects of cannabis, Belgian lawmakers have tabled proposed legislation which, if adopted, would make the use of cannabis for medical purposes legal. A Cannabis Office will be created within the Federal Agency for Medicines and Health Products which will be in charge of the legal production of medical cannabis, establishing a monopoly for the Belgian State on the cultivation, trade, import and export of that product. Other EU member states already have followed a similar legislative route (e.g. the Netherlands).
Following the establishment of the Cannabis Office, a call for tenders will be issued for the cultivation of a certain amount of cannabis. Licences will be granted to the successful applicants to cultivate cannabis in specified locations. The Cannabis Office will purchase the harvest and export and/or distribute it.
The manufacturing process will be subject to stringent standards. For example, the cannabis will need to have a stable concentration of the active substance as well as a stable ratio of the main active ingredients, i.e. cannabidiol (CBD) and the main psychoactive compound tetrahydrocannabinol (THC).
The move comes more than three years after the first cannabis-based medicine (Sativex spray) became authorized and reimbursable in Belgium for certain multiple sclerosis (“MS”) patients. If physicians want to prescribe medicinal cannabis to their patients for pain relief, or the treatment of nausea and reduced appetite during chemotherapy, further regulatory changes will be required.