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What Does Spain’s Snap Election Mean For Its Long-Awaited Medical Cannabis Industry?

THE highly-anticipated regulation and roll out of a medical cannabis industry in Spain, already over 6 months overdue, is now under threat of being set aside completely.

After suffering heavy losses in local elections at the end of May, the Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez announced that he was calling a snap election so that the country could ‘clarify which political forces they want to take the lead’.

With right-leaning parties generally opposed to the introduction of medical cannabis polling well ahead of the incumbent socialists, doubts now loom over the entire project.

Not only is there now just weeks for the government to deliver their proposals before the general election, but the dissolution of parliament following the announcement of a snap election means dozens of bills have come to a standstill.

The current situation 

In June 2022, a subcommittee tasked with investigating medical cannabis frameworks deployed throughout the world put forward its proposals for how a similar framework would look in Spain, following over a year of research.

After each party has been given the opportunity to examine the proposals and suggest their own amendments, they received support from five out of nine political groups later that month.

The task then fell to the Spanish Agency for Medicines and Health Products (AEMPS) to prepare a document with recommendations of how to fit this framework into the country’s regulations and ensure they were legally viable.

However, the AEMPS was given until just December 2022 to complete this task amid government efforts to slash deadlines and push the medical cannabis project through as quickly as possible.


This initial deadline came and went, with the government remaining tight-lipped about the reasons behind the delay.

In a discouraging governmental debut, the Spanish Minister of Health José María Miñones, who was appointed just days earlier, finally addressed the issue in March 2023.

Answering his first ever question as health minister in the Chamber of Deputies regarding the delay, he stated that the ‘evidence was insufficient and we cannot recommend its use’, despite the sub committee spending months gathering and presenting such information.

“We must go hand in hand with scientific evidence to balance benefit and risk. We continue to work on it,” he said.

Then, in May, in his first appearance before the Health Commission of the Lower House Mr Miñones backtracked on this position, apologising for the six-month delay and promising to present it by the end of May, a deadline which has once again been missed.

What happens now?

In January 2023, when the general election was not expected until around November, the president of the Spanish Observatory of Medicinal Cannabis (OECM) Carola Pérez told Business of Cannabis: “If we have new elections and the conservatives win, this is going to be a problem. It’s a race against the clock.”

With now just over a month to go before the general election, this ‘race against the clock’ is looking increasingly unwinnable, not least because congressional activity has now ground to a halt.

According to Spanish law, a vote can only be held 54 days after the dissolution of its parliament, meaning that as soon as the snap election was announced the progress of 62 draft bills were stopped in their tracks.

Should the medical cannabis proposals somehow break through this political impasse and be presented by AEMPS, the next steps as to how the proposals will be brought into law are unclear.

Business of Cannabis understands that the decision is set to be a governmental one, meaning that it would not be binding for the incoming administration.

This means that the future of medical cannabis in Spain is all but in the hands of the results of the election, and whether the five parties (PSOE, Unidas Podemos, Citizens, PNV and PDeCAT) which pushed the legislation through last June can hold on to power.

Spanish medical cannabis operator Linneo Health told Business of Cannabis: “We were hopeful to see the Spanish government’s initial commitment to allow patients in Spain to benefit from medicinal cannabis so, naturally, we’re disappointed in the continued delay to progress.

“The growing need for medicinal cannabis is a reality in Spain that we cannot avoid and it needs to be regulated for the benefit of patients. We’re keen to see this back on the government’s agenda, as soon as possible after the elections.”

Currently PP, the centre right party which voted against medical cannabis last year, is leading the PSOE by nine points, though the outcome of the general election is far from set in stone.

Despite PP securing nearly all of the country’s largest cities, including long-time socialist stronghold Seville in the recent local elections, the conservatives failed to win outright majorities.

This means that it is likely PP would have to enter into a coalition or work much more closely with the far-right Vox party, which also voted against medical cannabis to little surprise.

Mr Sánchez is banking on this fact to motivate centrists to vote in his favour, or risk opening the door to far-right populism as has been seen in an increasing number of European states.

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