Newly released data show that Poland is home to over 9,261 patients legally accessing medical cannabis, making it one of the largest such populations in Europe.
Demand for medical cannabis from patients in Poland is growing fast, but the government is still failing to ensure adequate supply. New legislation that would bolster the national supply has been rejected by the Parliament.
New cannabis legislation in Poland
On 13 January 2022, the Polish Parliament held the first reading of three draft laws intended to overhaul the cannabis laws in Poland. Out of the three drafts under consideration, two were rejected, and the third one was accepted for further proceedings by the Health and Agriculture committees. Currently, legislative work is taking place with respect to six different drafts of amendments to the hemp law, two of which (including one citizen’s draft) relate to the legalisation of recreational use.
The first of the rejected drafts provided for the general admission of cannabis cultivation with high THC concentration for the needs of the pharmaceutical industry in Poland, allowed the reimbursement of cannabis-based medicines for certain indications, and aimed to regulate the legal issue of driving after the use (2-5 ng Δ9 THC/ml) and in an intoxicated state (>5 ng Δ9 THC/ml) of THC. It therefore remains illegal to cultivate medical cannabis commercially in Poland and patients must rely on imports from Europe and North America.
The second bill, also rejected, was a new law comprehensively regulating the cultivation of industrial hemp (with a low THC content), the cultivation of which is now legal in Poland, but regulated (like so-called ‘medical marijuana’) by the Anti-Drug Abuse Act. The proposal assumed raising to 0.3% THC the limit, differentiating between fibrous (industrial) hemp and hemp with high THC content used for medical purposes.
The third draft, which has been sent for further proceedings, provides for enabling state research institutes supervised by the Minister of Agriculture to cultivate hemp with higher than 0.3% THC in Poland for the needs of the pharmaceutical industry.
Maciej Konarowski of Can advocare commented:
“The draft law is clearly underdeveloped and contains many loopholes, which means that even if the discussed regulations find political support and are enacted, their actual use will not occur during the current term of the parliament.”
Currently, there are about twelve research institutes that could carry out such cultivation, and it is likely that the Institute of Natural Fibres and Herb Plants in Poznań would be involved. However, the draft of a Bill does not specify such important issues as the following.
- Where would the funds for the creation of infrastructure for indoor cultivation come from?
- Would the Institute, in addition to a permit from the Chief Pharmaceutical Inspector for cultivation, have to obtain the relevant permits under the Pharmaceutical Law (for the production of pharmaceutical raw materials and EU GMP)?
- Who (whether private entities) and on what principles (commercial) could acquire and process the raw material?
Konarowski concluded that in the light of these numerous doubts, it should not be expected that the production of pharmaceutical raw material will actually take place in Poland within the next few years.
Extracts available for the first time
At the end of 2021, the first pharmaceutical raw material for the preparation of prescription medicines in pharmacies in the form of cannabis 10% THC extract received a marketing authorisation.
‘This is breakthrough news for Polish patients, doctors and pharmacists, as until now they could only use the authorised dried Cannabis flower. It will undoubtedly contribute to increasing the therapeutic options available in Poland,’ explains Konarowski. ‘However, in order for this to actually come true, it is necessary to intensify efforts to educate the medical community, which should be supported by adoption of a cannabis monograph in European Pharmacopoeia.’