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Spain Confirms No Movement On Medical Cannabis Framework Before Election, But Hope Remains It ‘Will Be Regulated In The Next Legislative Term, For Sure’

After months of silence and delays from the Spanish government, the country’s Health Minister has confirmed that proposals for the rollout of a medical cannabis framework will not happen before the elections this month.

With the election campaign kicking off in earnest last week ahead of the July 23 finale, current polling continues to suggest that the conservative Popular Party (PP) will take power, but needs the help of the far-right Vox party to secure a working majority.

As Business of Cannabis reported last month, this has thrown the future of the long-fought medical cannabis campaign into doubt, leaving it in the hands of whoever takes power.

Despite the uncertainty, Antonio Bezanilla, lawyer at Bezanilla & Renedo Abogados and partner at Agropharm Projects, believes that while there is considerable work to be done, ‘medicinal cannabis will be regulated in the next legislative term, for sure’.

No movement before election

In May, the newly appointed Spanish Minister of Health, José María Miñones, in his first appearance before the Health Commission of the Lower House, promised to present the long-awaited document by the end of the month.

Already more than six months after the report’s initial due-date, progress was halted once again after Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez announced that he was calling a snap election, leading to the dissolution of parliament.

Speaking to local media last month, Mr Miñones suggested that while he had indeed received the report from the Spanish Agency for Medicines and Health Products (AEMPS) by the end of May, ‘it is true that with the electoral period the Chamber is not working’.

“At the moment that parliamentary activity returns, my first commitment is to transfer that report and continue taking steps.”

Mr Bezanilla explained to Business of Cannabis that with the parliament formally dissolved, new laws can no longer be passed, and only a permanent committee of deputies remained for constitutional ‘emergencies’.

“There is no time to regulate cannabis in this legislative term. The session period has ended. The laws that were under review or in working committees have lapsed.

“Formally, for urgent or exceptional reasons, a government could approve whatever it wants by decree, such as a medicinal cannabis law. In that case, it would be the next parliament that would vote on whether this decree becomes consolidated into law or, on the contrary, lapses.”

There is hope yet

While speculation swirls around the future of medical cannabis in the hands of a more right-leaning government, Mr Bezanilla argues that this could actually be more promising than the current administration.

“The reality is that this government does not believe in medicinal cannabis and has never had the intention to regulate it. Why would they do it now, urgently, by decree, and in the midst of an electoral campaign?”

Asked whether he believed the PP would continue to push ahead with plans to establish a medical cannabis market in Spain given it voted against the proposals last year, Mr Bezanilla said: “Yes, without a doubt.

“It is a supranational issue. The European Union recommends it, and in the next four years, medicinal cannabis will be approved in Spain and in the majority of European countries.

“Apart from this, it has always been conservative parties that have led the approval of laws in favour of patients and medicinal cannabis.

“We have the governments of Santos in Colombia, Trudeau in Canada, Sharon in Israel, Merkel in Germany, and a long list of countries where Uruguay and Portugal – with progressive governments – have been the exceptions. That is why we must reassure the patients.”

This position was not shared by everyone however, including Albert Tió, President of Federation of Self-regulated Cannabis Associations of Catalonia (FEDCAC), also of the Green Light (Luz Verde) party.

He told Business of Cannabis: “I think if the conservative parties win the elections, it will be difficult to expect any movement of the medical regulation project. And even with PSOE winning, we are seeing the new Barcelona council saying it will try to close as many cannabis social clubs as possible, so that’s really a step back, and the future doesn’t look very hopeful.

“That’s why we move forward and try to organise participation in the legislative parliaments to try to propose law reforms from the inside.”

Still work to be done

Should the project be kept alive by the incoming government, it’s clear that even with the AEMPS report, there is still a considerable amount of work to be done.

As Mr Bezanilla explains, “Even if the government urgently approved a cannabis law by decree, it would have no budget allocated for its implementation, which would practically be like having no law at all. Patients deserve much more.

“In Spain, we do not have a bill, nor a consensus-binding text. A statement of intent was approved in an informational committee, and someone has sold us the idea. The problem is that these intentions have not been very firm,” he continued.

“It is time to build a medicinal cannabis law from scratch. And we will have to do it through established parliamentary channels: we need to create a legislative committee on the subject, call in experts to provide information, propose a draft law, have this draft pass through the plenary of the Congress for approval, then the Senate, and finally sanction it as a law and publish it in the Official State Gazette (BOE).

“Fortunately, there are elections coming up. And then it will be up to patients and companies to start building a law from scratch. Science is on our side. Medicinal cannabis will be regulated in the next legislative term, for sure.”

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