Medical cannabis trials finally begin in France after COVID-19 delays

Bethan Rose Jenkins, Cannabis News Writer/Editorial

On March 26, France celebrated the launch of government-approved trials that will focus on the benefits of medicinal cannabis. At the current time, the plant’s use, sale and production remains illegal in the European country.

As many as 3,000 people are expected to participate in the trials, all of whom will have been diagnosed with chronic pain, severe epilepsy and/or nervous system illness like chemotherapy-related pain and sclerosis. 

Individuals who have been receiving palliative care for two years will also partake in France’s medical cannabis trials. 

Prescribed types of medical cannabis, including oils and dried flowers, will be administered to study subjects across 215 medical centers that have signed up to get involved in the trial.

Medicines to be sourced from overseas for France’s medical cannabis trial 

France’s medical cannabis trial aims to monitor the safety and efficacy of the drug. According to National medicines agency, the Agence nationale de sécurité du médicament et des produits de santé (ANSM), “the trial has a double objective.”

“Firstly, to evaluate the feasibility of making medical cannabis available in France, and also to produce initial data on the safety and efficacy of cannabis in the medical field. We have done everything to make this trial as safe as possible, with medicines that have been rigorously selected, tested by our laboratories and distributed by French laboratories.” 

Since cannabis production is forbidden in France, sourcing the green plant requires contact with overseas suppliers. Once the medical cannabis has been procured for trialing, patients will be logged onto a register and assessed over a two-year period.

The health ministry believes that the commencement of France’s medical cannabis trial signal “collective success” and a desire to respond to the needs of patients who are living with debilitating conditions.

Significant demand for medical cannabis in France may not be satisfied by scale of trial

The French parliament may feel inclined to legalize cannabis for medicinal purposes six months ahead of the two-year trial period’s end, at which point a concluding report will be issued. Currently, demand for medical cannabis in France is at an all-time high. This is particularly true amid the legislative sweep that has seen much of Europe turn verdantly green over the last year or so. 

“For someone who is suffering, and doesn’t have a solution, this might be one,” said the  vice-president of la Ligue nationale contre le cancer, Catherine Simonin. 

While the trial offers hope for patients who struggle with debilitating conditions and illnesses, spokesperson for Epilepsie France, Patrick Baudru, doesn’t think that the scale of the trial is sufficient to determine the plant’s benefits.

“Four hundred patients with epilepsy will be able to take part in the trial, out of more than 600,000 people with epilepsy in France,” he told reporters about the trials, which were initially given the thumbs-up by parliament in 2019 and were expected to begin last year; the coronavirus pandemic is believed to have hindered progress.

You can find out more about France’s medical cannabis trials by visiting the ANSM website