Summer in Review: Cannabis News From Central and Eastern Europe

Poland

The debate about medical cannabis continues to grow in scale and impact in Poland as more and more politicians, health professionals, patients, and members of the public dive into the subject. One particularly striking recent example is that of Tomasz Kalita, spokesman for the social-democratic SLD party. In August, Kalita, 38, publicly announced that he is treating his brain cancer with illegal cannabis extracts. “I do not want to become an ‘oncology celebrity,’ or a proponent of cannabis legalization,” Kalita told news channel Polsat News. “I just want to have the right to choose the best available treatment.” It’s absurd that cannabis-based treatments are available in neighboring European countries while he and thousands of other Polish patients have to break the law and buy medicine of doubtful quality on the street, Kalita said. Poland currently allows the import only of Sativex — a peppermint-flavored mouth spray — and two strains of dried cannabis flower from the Netherlands. Individuals who want permission to use cannabis medically must go through a lengthy approval process required by the country’s Health Ministry.

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Czech Republic

A brand-new cannabis research and growing facility opened its doors in the western part of Czechia in August, bringing together researchers from the Czech University of Life Sciences in Prague and agricultural experts from the private sector. “Cannabis is a plant, and who could take better care of plants than professional farmers?” asked Jaroslav Hána, CEO of agricultural company Meclovská zemedělská. Apart from stating a common-sense observation, Hána’s question was also a jab at the only Czech company currently allowed to grow medical cannabis — a producer of waste bins and industrial containers with no prior experience in plant science.

Slovenia

The renowned World Hemp Congress celebrated its fifth year in Slovenia last month. The event, which ran Aug. 20-25, hosted dozens of agricultural experts, scientists, researchers, and health professionals from around the world. The primary focus was on growing and manufacturing practices of industrial cannabis with less than 0.2 percent THC — generally categorized as hemp —but there was also plenty of time devoted to discussing the medicinal properties of cannabis as a whole plant. Thanks to the many attractions, workshops, and the availability of live streams, the World Hemp Congress has grown rapidly in recent years, and the same can be said about the popularity of cannabis in Slovenia. Martin Štiglic, representing the Czech Ministry of Economic Development and Technology, told participants that Congress that the ministry will devote €25 million “to the development of the hemp industry and parallel industries by 2020” and that the government will support foreign hemp investors and partners.

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Macedonia Set to Become Next European Country to Legalize Medical Cannabis

Macedonia

The National Medicines Agency announced on Aug. 22 that pharmacies will begin selling cannabis extracts with high amounts of THC to registered patients. The extracts consist of cannabis concentrates diluted in oil. As Leafly reported in May, the tiny Balkan country legalized medical cannabis this past spring, but the only product available so far has been high-CBD extract with no access THC. Advocates for patient have also criticized the high price of medicine and the fact that the government has yet to disclose identity of the country’s sole cannabis producer.

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