Following the approval of medical marijuana by the French Senate, regulators are now preparing for "about two years of experimentation" before implementing full legalization.
According to Jean-Baptiste Moreau—an MP with the French centrist party LREM—the experiment "will be set up very quickly in the coming weeks."
Despite the desire to get the new program up and running as quickly as possible, legal medical marijuana will not happen as soon as some patients may have hoped. Currently, only a small number of patients will be eligible to receive medical cannabis and only as "a last resort, after trying other available therapeutic treatments," Nicolas Authier—head of pharmacology at Clermont-Ferrand University Hospital Centre's pain clinic—told FRANCE 24.
Authier is leading the team responsible for evaluating the different options for actually producing and distributing medical marijuana in France. For the time being, Authier said "medical cannabis production is not authorized in France" and the government will likely import most or all of its cannabis until after the experimentation period has concluded.
However, even in this limited form, lawmakers from France's primary conservative party les Républicains have called the experiment a "Trojan horse" that will open the doors to recreational cannabis legalization.
But Authier has argued that "there is little risk that medical cannabis will be abused for recreational purposes." He said the strength of French medical marijuana won't be enough "to satisfy those looking for psychoactive effects." Instead, medical cannabis will be tailored to the needs of patients who deserve to have access to this potentially life-saving substance.
"Therapeutic cannabis is not a drug, it is medication," said Authier
But, this doesn't mean there is no hope for recreational cannabis in France, said Moreau.
"For now, we are talking about medical cannabis, but eventually we will have to consider wellness cannabis [oils, vitamins and supplements with very low levels of THC]."
France's medical marijuana experiment is expected to continue through to mid-2021. After this French officials will begin looking at a more permanent medical marijuana legalization and the possibility of domestic cannabis production.