The European Commission has partially approved the launch of a multi-national ballot initiative that aims to improve the access and research of medical cannabis in the European Union (EU). The initiative, called the ‘European Cannabis Initiative’, was submitted by a group of citizens and organizations from several EU countries. The initiative seeks to collect one million signatures from EU citizens in order to trigger a legislative process at the EU level.
What is the European Cannabis Initiative?
The European Cannabis Initiative is a citizens’ initiative that was registered by the European Commission on February 8, 2024. A citizens’ initiative is a tool of direct democracy that allows EU citizens to propose legal changes to the EU institutions. To do so, they need to collect at least one million signatures from at least seven EU countries within one year. If they succeed, the European Commission will have to consider their proposal and decide whether to take action on it.
The European Cannabis Initiative proposes to amend the EU legislation on medical cannabis and cannabinoids, which are the active compounds of the cannabis plant. The initiative has three main objectives:
- To ensure that patients who need medical cannabis can access it legally and safely across the EU, without facing legal or administrative barriers.
- To promote and fund scientific research on the medical benefits and risks of cannabis and cannabinoids, as well as their potential applications in various diseases and conditions.
- To establish common standards and guidelines for the production, quality, and regulation of medical cannabis and cannabinoids in the EU, in order to ensure their safety and efficacy.
Why is the European Cannabis Initiative important?
The European Cannabis Initiative is important because it reflects the growing interest and demand for medical cannabis and cannabinoids in Europe. According to the initiative’s organizers, millions of EU citizens suffer from chronic pain, epilepsy, multiple sclerosis, cancer, and other serious illnesses that could benefit from medical cannabis. However, they face many obstacles and challenges to access it, such as:
- The lack of harmonized and clear legal frameworks for medical cannabis and cannabinoids in the EU. Each EU country has its own rules and regulations, which vary widely in terms of availability, prescription, reimbursement, and quality control. This creates confusion, uncertainty, and inequality among patients and doctors, as well as legal risks and barriers for cross-border access and trade.
- The lack of scientific evidence and knowledge on the medical use of cannabis and cannabinoids. Despite the increasing number of studies and trials on the topic, there is still a need for more and better research to assess the effectiveness, safety, and optimal dosage of medical cannabis and cannabinoids for different conditions and patients. There is also a need for more education and awareness among health professionals and the public on the potential benefits and risks of medical cannabis and cannabinoids.
- The lack of common standards and guidelines for the production, quality, and regulation of medical cannabis and cannabinoids in the EU. There is no uniformity or consistency in the quality, purity, and potency of medical cannabis and cannabinoids available in the EU, which may affect their safety and efficacy. There is also no common framework or criteria for the authorization, inspection, and monitoring of medical cannabis and cannabinoids producers and suppliers in the EU, which may pose risks for public health and safety.
The European Cannabis Initiative hopes to address these issues and challenges by proposing a comprehensive and coherent approach to medical cannabis and cannabinoids at the EU level. The initiative believes that this would improve the quality of life and well-being of millions of EU citizens who suffer from debilitating diseases and conditions, as well as foster innovation and competitiveness in the medical cannabis and cannabinoids sector in Europe.
What are the next steps for the European Cannabis Initiative?
The European Cannabis Initiative has received partial approval from the European Commission, which means that it has met the legal and formal requirements to start collecting signatures. However, the European Commission has not yet verified the substance and admissibility of the initiative, which means that it has not yet assessed whether the initiative falls within its competence and is consistent with the EU values and principles. The European Commission will do so only after the initiative has collected one million signatures.
The European Cannabis Initiative has one year, until February 8, 2025, to collect the required number of signatures from EU citizens. The initiative has launched an online platform where people can sign and support the initiative, as well as a campaign to raise awareness and mobilize supporters across the EU. The initiative also plans to organize events, workshops, and debates on the topic of medical cannabis and cannabinoids in the EU.
If the European Cannabis Initiative succeeds in collecting one million signatures, it will then submit them to the national authorities of each EU country for verification and validation. Once the signatures are validated, the European Commission will have three months to examine the initiative and decide whether to follow up on it or not. The European Commission may either propose a legal act based on the initiative, or explain why it chooses not to do so. In any case, the European Commission will have to justify its decision and engage in a dialogue with the initiative’s organizers and the European Parliament.
The European Cannabis Initiative is a historic and unprecedented attempt to bring the issue of medical cannabis and cannabinoids to the EU agenda. It is also a testament to the power and potential of citizens’ participation and democracy in the EU. Whether the initiative will succeed or not remains to be seen, but it is certainly a sign of the changing times and attitudes towards medical cannabis and cannabinoids in Europe.