The countdown to the regulation of medical cannabis in Spain has begun

The countdown to the regulation of medical cannabis in Spain has begun

Di: Contributor Attivismo

The saying “the wheels of bureaucracy grind slowly” takes on all its meaning when it comes to Spanish law. Eight months after the approval by the Congress of Deputies of the creation of a subcommittee to analyse the experiences of other countries; and four months after it was actually formed in the lower chamber; the subcommittee will finally celebrate its first meeting on Wednesday 16th February 2022. The aim is to agree on and approve a report that will potentially become the basis of a regulation for the use of cannabis for therapeutic purposes in Spain.

This subcommittee is a reduced version of the Congress’ Commission of Health, and will analyse the experiences of various governments that already have medical cannabis programmes in place. Experts will also be involved with the aim of helping to establish a regulatory framework for Spain that follows in the footsteps of these other countries.

Let’s analyse this announcement in depth by answering the following questions:

What will be discussed at this first meeting?

As reported by the Spanish Medical Cannabis Observatory (OECM), citing parliamentary sources, this first meeting will define the work of the subcommittee as well as a possible list of national and international speakers that will provide relevant scientific evidence.

How long will this work last?

According to their own sources, which are already available in the Congress’ website, the subcommittee has until 18:00 on 20th May to prepare a findings report, which will then be sent to the government to be used in the regulation of medical cannabis in Spain.

When could the regulation of medical cannabis be voted on?

The Observatory claims that parliamentary sources have confirmed that it is ‘very likely’ that the subcommittee report will give way to a regulatory frame that could reach Congress and be voted on at the end of June.

Does it have a chance of succeeding in that time?

In 2021, after the u-turn of PSOE (Spanish Socialist Workers’ Party), who had previously denied scientific evidence of the therapeutic properties of cannabis, all parties except VOX and PP voted in favour of the creation of the subcommittee that had been put forward by PNV (Basque National Party). However, Carola Pérez (OECM’s chairwoman) explains that PP have now changed their tune, claiming that they would now support this proposal; although they first demand the drafting of a white paper on the medicinal use of cannabis.

What are the implications of this demand?

The white paper would collect all scientific evidence and would be developed by the Carlos III Health Institute (ISCIII). This could greatly delay the process, possibly making it unlikely for the regulation to be moved forward during this current term of office. However, it is also highly possible that PP may boycott this proposal for purely electoral purposes. In any case, the hope is that, even if it’s not unanimous, there will be a majority that supports the proposal, which would then lead to the report being submitted to the government for its legislation.

Is there enough scientific evidence?

The subcommittee should focus on the debate on procedural guarantees and models. As OECM points out, “it would be absurd to start, yet again, by looking for scientific evidence on the medical use of cannabis”. Indeed, it was only recently that international bodies endorsed the medicinal properties of the plant, including the World Health Organisation (in its report from June 2019) and the United Nations (in December 2020).

What would this regulatory framework look like?

The original proposal by PNV promoted the approval of a legal framework for the use of medical cannabis as a prescribed drug through the Spanish National Health System. However, experts claim that the most established models at international level are ‘mixed’, i.e. with private companies manufacturing the products, and with the State monitoring its correct distribution. OECM explains: “Nobody should be left out for economic, social, or ethical reasons. This should be free and subsidised by the Social Security system”.


There are a lot of expectations placed on this project for an objective analysis of the current status of medical cannabis and for a clear disposition to listen to citizens and patients. Nonetheless, and without a shadow of a doubt, the real stumbling block will be time. Even if the subcommittee completes the work before the deadline (which is actually extendable), they’ll be at best delivering their report by May 2022. This will leave the government with just a year and a half to legislate until the next general elections (in November 2023 if they don’t get brought forward). In any case, the one thing that’s certain is that the countdown has started for the long-awaited regularisation of medical cannabis. Whether the resolution arrives this year or next, probably falls within what can be reasonably expected.

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