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The Surging Tides Of Global Medical Cannabis Markets

Mar. 14, 2024 by SOMAÍ Pharmaceuticals

You may not see it or even hear about it but have no doubts: an enormous regulatory framework tsunami pushing global medical cannabis is happening right now. 

Two Major Transatlantic Medical Cannabis Waves Start 2024

In the first two months of 2024, two significant catalytic events occurred, the likes of which have not been seen since California first went recreational in 2016, starting the United States’ industrial cannabis boom. Germany, the largest and most powerful country in Europe, decriminalized cannabis and, most importantly, took cannabis off the narcotics registry.

Additionally, a top U.S. health organization — the Health and Human Services (HHS) — wrote a recommendation letter and corresponding 252-page report to the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) after two decades of observing medical and recreational cannabis, concluding that not only is cannabis safe but further acknowledging cannabis is effective for at “least” 15 medical indications including neuropathic pain.

Ripple Effects: US-German Cannabis Movements Grab Global Health Attention

One may argue the relevance of these U.S. and German-based decisions in light of each country’s internal debates on cannabis. However, there certainly are new discussions to be had, given these two significant advancements in medical cannabis access. 

The U.S. HHS/DEA letter and report are a turning point on which regulators can base their decisions. Because there are few clinical trials to determine policy, a vast HHS-driven observational study is a substantial piece of data to rely on. There is also a similar Health Canada yearly report that details in 200 pages almost every medical cannabis preference and usage. It would seem apparent that major regulatory agencies would want to study the effects of their growing cannabis usage within their population.

Additionally, although other countries may not entirely accept these publications, they are not ignoring them. All health organizations must look at the effect in those more mature markets to assess better policies for their medical community and those forced to buy from illicit markets.

Germany’s Bold Move Reshapes European Cannabis Currents

Germany has always been ahead of Europe in terms of cannabis reform. However, by removing the narcotics derivation, anyone can get cannabis for just about anything. Countries like Czechia immediately followed suit with similar programs. Simultaneously, countries like Spain have opened up public debate on proposed medical cannabis policies. The French have been studying cannabis in a pilot medical access program for years and look ready to move.

Additionally, although there is little appetite in upper governmental Europe for “recreational” cannabis, the access granted by taking off narcotics rules may not look like the American medical dispensary model. Still, it will mirror the access tsunami of the U.S. as specialized clinics and cannabis pharmacies will distribute cannabis much more freely. 

The phrase, “As goes America, so goes the world,” can be reshaped in Europe to say, “As goes Germany, so goes the European Union (EU).

The WHO Monitors The Changing Tides In Global Cannabis Regulations

The World Health Organization (WHO) is also monitoring these events. 

Although they may look down on Canadians’ adult-use program and are closely watching the U.S. rescheduling of cannabis to Schedule III, the WHO has clearly been positioning for medical cannabis access. To some extent, the WHO believes in limited access to medical cannabis on a global scale. Additionally, to some extent, the WHO will most likely agree with the findings in the HHS report that cannabis is a safe medicine that has anecdotal evidence of effectiveness for specific indications. 

However, the German decision to remove cannabis as a narcotic seems to be muting the WHO’s regulatory oversight granted under the 1971 Single Treaty Narcotics Act. Finally, although it is Germany’s right through EU regulatory framework to have a supervised medical rollout of cannabis, taking the narcotic derivation off ahead of the U.S. rescheduling has caused a stir at the upper levels of the WHO and EU parliamentary. 

Will Global Regulators Surf The Medical Cannabis Wave?

These two 2024 events are setting off a regulatory cascade throughout global regulatory agencies to bring their rules up to global standards. After all, the U.S. just said cannabis was safe and effective, with Germany agreeing with that assessment. 

There is an expectation that country-by-country regulatory announcements of cannabis access are commensurate with their community expectations since safety and usage have now been settled. It would be hard to say “Take oxycodone” to a patient when there is a safer alternative. It would also be hard to keep explaining to the medical patients in need that all your neighbors can find relief, but the population of your country cannot. 

If the U.S. should hit the trifecta and reschedule — which seems common sense at this point —  it would be an amazing sweep for 2024. Even the President’s State of the Union speech indicates a positive push towards rescheduling despite the skeptical DEA. Regardless, the legal tide of medical cannabis is surging whether politicians follow suit quickly or lag.