The Lower Chamber of the Polish Parliament approved on Friday (June 6th) a bill legalizing the use of the limited amount of cannabis for medical purposes. An overwhelming majority – 440 out of 460 MP’s – voted yes, only two were against and one abstained. However, patients and activists are not celebrating; in fact the bill draws a huge amount of criticism for several crucial imperfections.
The bill is now heading to the Senate, where it is expected to pass easily, and then will be signed into law by Polish president Andrzej Duda. Once it is enacted, pharmacies will be allowed to prepare cannabis-based medicaments from imported cannabis for registered patients. These patients will have to be diagnosed with specific medical conditions and they will have to obtain a recommendation from their doctor stating that cannabis is a beneficial form of treatment for them.
No Common Sense
And here is the big catch: The original proposal of the law, which would allow growing medically standardized cannabis in Poland by Polish farmers and companies, was rejected by the MP’s. It is unclear why the politicians don’t want to create a profitable agricultural industry in their own country with a very long history of growing hemp – instead they prefer importing final “product” from other EU countries (most likely Holland or Israel). Not only is this change in the draft bill very unreasonable in terms of Polish farming industry, but it would also make all cannabis medicines much more expensive for the patients.
“Today, Polish citizens and patients lost and the foreign companies producing and exporting medical cannabis won. It is a pyrrhic victory for us, but we are not putting our weapons down and we’re going to push amendments in the Senate, which would allow growing medical cannabis in Poland, making it much cheaper,” explains Jakub Gajewski, one of the best known Polish activists and director of Wolne Konopie – NGO fighting for cannabis legalization in Poland.
The debate about medical cannabis in Poland has intensified two years ago after media paid much attention to the case of neurologist Dr. Marek Bachánski who was fired from a large children’s hospital in Warsaw for giving cannabis to child patients. There were also highly followed cases of patient caregivers, who were caught by police smuggling large amounts of the so called Rick Simpson Oil (potent cannabis extracts) to Poland in order to successfully help sick and dying patients.
The original proposal was submitted in February 2016 by a famous Polish rapper Piotr Marzec-Liroy, who is a former MP for the Kukiz ’15 Movement (the third strongest party in the Lower House), but now is an independent MP. Media attention had been also brought to Tomasz Kalita, a left-wing MP, who had been afflicted by brain cancer and who used cannabis to ease his suffering. Unfortunately, he died in January this year, but there are thousands and thousands of other severely ill patients in Poland who would greatly benefit from medical effects of cannabis – provided it is legally and economically available. Many people doubt this version of medical cannabis law will achieve that.