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Spain: European Observatory questions government about granting licenses

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O European Observatory on Cannabis Consumption and Cultivation (OECCC) asked the Spanish government for concrete information on the granting of licenses for the cultivation of medical cannabis in Spain. According to the Madrid newspaper Public, the Spanish Agency for Medicines and Health Products (AEMPS), a department of the Ministry of Health, is now facing the first administrative test of its intentions in the field of cannabis regulation.

The OECCC includes a Spanish group of specialists in the legal and health areas, among others, and is concerned with favoring large multinational companies, to the detriment of small national producers and entrepreneurs. The Observatory intends to use the Law on Transparency, Access to Public Information and Good Government, of 2013, to learn about the procedures of the AEMPS, which, in its opinion, has been executing the procedures for granting licenses with opacity, without knowing the reasons why some applications for cultivation permits are approved and others are rejected, ending up favoring large companies and excluding small producers and entrepreneurs.

The new coalition government of PSOE and Podemos will now have to clarify its intentions in the field of cannabis regulation. Between 2018 and 2019, AEMPS received 44 applications for permission to grow.

Based on last year's data provided by AEMPS, in Spain there are four companies authorized to cultivate a total of 15,3 hectares of cannabis for medicinal and scientific purposes: Cafina, based in Alicante, Linneo Health, with British capital and managed by businessman Juan Abelló, with extensive experience in the pharmaceutical industry, Oils4cure, based in Madrid, and Cannabinoids Spain, located in Cordoba. In addition to these four, there are six other entities that are authorized to grow cannabis, but only for research and development.

OECCC denounces lack of transparency in licenses

The Observatory asked the Medicines Agency in writing for the number, type of authorizations and beneficiaries of the permissions granted for the cultivation of cannabis from 2015 to date, specifying the conditions necessary to allow the license granted to the national group Alcaliber to be subsequently transferred, according to its information, for a value of 9,4 million euros to the international group Linneo Health, which participated in the British fund GHO, based in the Cayman Islands.

The organization also wants to know which companies are authorized to produce cosmetics with cannabinoids and which use synthetic or natural cannabinoids, national or imported, and whether they are from their own cultures or acquired.

According to the Observatory's group of experts, the government's lack of transparency on the matter has reached the extreme, in which the answers given to parliamentary groups in recent years regarding questions about the licenses granted and the criteria that are followed do not coincide with the values ​​provided to each company, as well as the data presented by the website of AEMPS.

The rules by which the AEMPS is governed for the licensing of cannabis cultivation for medicinal and scientific purposes are pre-constitutional, because since the restoration of democracy, no law regulating this issue has been passed. The Ministry of Health continues to rely on 1967 Narcotic Drugs Act to adapt it to the 1961 United Nations Convention, signed by Francisco Franco to the 1963 Order, on the cultivation of medicinal plants related to narcotics.

The concessions are granted for a period of one year, which may be extended upon presentation of results. To obtain them, companies or entities must detail the forecast of the area to be cultivated, the origin and varieties of seeds, the amount of THC and CBD of the plants and the destination of the production. However, this production must be exported to other countries, as the medicinal use of cannabis in Spain is not yet allowed.

Meetings with political groups prepare initiatives

On 4 February, representatives of the Observatory met with various parliamentary groups to present their initiatives in favor of regulating cannabis in Spain, once the new legislature has begun. The group had already held meetings in June 2019 with members of various political parties in the Congress of Deputies, in which it presented a proposal for the full regulation of cannabis.

At the time, an initiative was suggested to regulate only medical cannabis, as it was understood that it would be more viable than also including recreational use. The OECCC draft medical cannabis law consists of 123 articles, six additional and four final provisions, to regulate the cultivation of the plant for medicinal and therapeutic purposes, access to seeds, production, distribution, patient associations and a broad regime of sanctions for violation of regulations.
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Featured Image: Matteo PaganelliUnsplash

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