Europe is an emerging market for cannabis, although at an estimated size of $1.6 billion by 2023, it’s relatively small compared to the North American market. With a conservative approach to cannabis, no European country has legalized the drug for recreational use — but the growing interest in medical marijuana could spark expansion to the segment.
France has reportedly made plans to expand its national medical marijuana program to make it legal for hundreds of thousands of patients. Currently, France has a restrictive medical pot strategy, but the country is planning to conduct experiments on the drug over the next couple of years and open up access for patients struggling with pain. Doctors will be able to prescribe cannabis after a patient has exhausted other options for pain relief.
According to patient groups, up to one million people will be eligible to use medical marijuana, a small fraction of the French population of nearly 70 million. Neighboring Germany legalized therapeutic cannabis more than two years ago and now boasts one of the biggest markets for it in Europe.
But before the French start experimenting, regulators still need to approve it:
– Professor Nicolas Authier, Clermont-Ferrand University Hospital
Once approved, the experiment could be launched in a matter of weeks. It will be closely controlled and Authier estimates testing and experimentation could last until midway through 2021. The French government would then evaluate the results to consider widening the legalization of medical cannabis.
There are signs medical professionals in the country are becoming more receptive to therapeutic cannabis. In December, the National Agency for the Safety of Health Products identified many conditions medical marijuana could potentially treat. Those include cancer, multiple sclerosis, palliative care and in some cases epilepsy.
There is some support to expand the list of eligible conditions for medical marijuana, which could be necessary for the success of the experiment.
“We will probably need to widen the scope of eligible illnesses,” said Green Party Senator Esther Benbassa.
With years of highly restrictive cannabis policies, there will be opportunities for foreign companies to export medical marijuana to France during this period.
Possibility for more marijuana products in the future
There’s no guarantee the experimentation process will lead to a robust medical marijuana program in France. But given the rapidly changing perceptions on cannabis around the world, it would seem more likely France will head towards giving patients more access to the plant. The potential to establish a medical cannabis industry in the country, could open the door for other medical marijuana products to be sold there.
“For now, we are talking about medical cannabis, but eventually we will have to consider wellness cannabis.”
– MP Jean-Baptiste Moreau
France’s evaluation still shows that more countries are opening their minds to marijuana. While the cannabis industry wouldn’t expect this to lead to legalizing recreational use anytime soon, the medical marijuana segment could prove attractive enough for those looking for new markets to expand into.