Pharmacies in Spain will be able to sell medical marijuana by the end of 2022

Spain's Medicines Agency will soon set out the conditions for pharmacies to be able to dispense cannabis with THC - the psychoactive component that makes you feel ‘high’ - when prescribed for therapeutic purposes.

The Spanish government still wants to prevent the use of cannabis extracts or preparations from being "confused with an invocation of the general use of cannabis by the population”. (Photo by JACK GUEZ / AFP)

The move was agreed upon by the Spanish Congress of Deputies on Tuesday, but must still be approved by Spain’s Health Commission, which is likely to be as soon as this Thursday, June 23rd.  

Products extracted from cannabis will be sold in Spanish pharmacies in order to help alleviate symptoms associated with diseases such as multiple sclerosis, some forms of epilepsy, the side effects of chemotherapy, cancer, chronic pain and endometriosis.

The Spanish Observatory of Medicinal Cannabis (OECM) calculates that up to 300,000 people who could use cannabis for therapeutic purposes will benefit. 

The cannabis formulas will be prescribed exclusively by health professionals “in a context free of potential conflicts of interest”, states the official text, and will preferably be prescribed by specialists.

A centralised registry of the patients who will use it will be created to ensure it’s only purchased by those who need it. 

The text also emphasises that it will be necessary to prevent the supply of cannabis for therapeutic uses from leading to “greater availability and consumption” outside of the context of health benefits.

The text goes on to say it is “absolutely necessary” to prevent the use of cannabis extracts or preparations from being “confused with an invocation of the general use of cannabis by the population”.

To stop this from happening, the Spanish Medicines Agency will prepare a yearly report on the options available, patients, services and volumes of products dispensed.

Although standardised cannabis extracts will be guaranteed, the agreement leaves the door open for the use of the cannabis flower too, to develop “experimental medicinal projects”. Many patients use the flower as a “rescue” medicine during episodes of crisis.

“Many times, the high THC composition of this is too high for a patient. From now on, it will be possible to regulate the amount of THC and make a more personalised adjustment”, explains Carlos Goicoechea, vice president of the Spanish Pain Society and professor of Pharmacology at the Rey Juan Carlos University.

Up until now, only two drugs based on the cannabis plant have been marketed in Spain: Sativex, made up of two extracts of cannabis sativa (THC and CBD), to treat muscle spasticity and pain in multiple sclerosis patients, and Epidiolex (CBD extracted from plants, in oil, for epilepsy associated with Dravet and Lennox-Gastaut syndromes).  

The new plan will mean patients who are unable to take these two drugs because of the high dosage will now be able to take specific doses created by the pharmacies.

The president of the General Council of Official Colleges of Pharmacists (CGCOF), Jesús Aguilar, claimed that dispensing the drug through the network of pharmacies reconciles the most demanding criteria of “public health, patient safety, health education and equal access”.

Currently, CBD products are not illegal in Spain provided that they contain less than 0.2 percent of THC, the psychoactive component in weed that makes you feel ‘high’.

READ ALSO: What’s the law on cannabis in Spain?

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Reciprocal healthcare agreements between Spain and Gibraltar end

The Spanish government has confirmed that it will not extend its reciprocal healthcare agreements with Gibraltar, meaning that from July 1st 2022, it will come to an end.

Reciprocal healthcare agreements between Spain and Gibraltar end

When the UK left the EU on December 31st 2020, both sides agreed that the UK’s EHIC European healthcare cards could still be used until their expiry dates.

This card provided British travellers with free state-provided medical care in the EU in case of emergencies.

Beyond their five year period of validity, EHIC cards are no longer valid and travellers have to apply for the new Global Heath Insurance Card (GHIC) instead. 

Spain made a separate agreement with Gibraltar under its Royal Brexit Decree in which unilateral arrangements would be maintained in the territory and extended until June 30th 2022.

During the meeting of the Spanish Council of Ministers on Tuesday, the Spanish Government decided not to extend the agreement further, meaning that residents of Gibraltar will no longer be able to benefit from it.

In a statement the government of Gibraltar said: “It would have been HMGoG’s preference for these arrangements, which deeply affect citizens on either side of the border on matters as essential as healthcare, to have been maintained. Indeed, HMGoG was prepared to continue with them”.

“However, because reciprocity is a key element to these arrangements which cannot work without coordination and provisions for reimbursement of costs etc., HMGoG is left with no option but to discontinue them also in so far as treatment in Gibraltar is concerned,” it continued. 

What does this mean?

Gibraltar residents insured under Gibraltar’s Group Practice Medical Scheme will, after 30th June 2022, no longer be able to access free emergency healthcare in Spain during a temporary stay in the country. 

Those who are residents in Spain who travel over to Gibraltar will not have access to free healthcare on The Rock either. 

As a consequence, if a resident of Gibraltar falls ill or has an accident while over the border in Spain or the same for a Spanish resident in Gibraltar, they will have to pay for healthcare.

The government of Gibraltar is encouraging its citizens from July 1st 2022 to have appropriate travel insurance with medical cover each time they visit Spain.

This means that even those who are hopping over the border for few hours such as for a shopping trip or going out for dinner will have to make sure that they have adequate health insurance. 

“Where medical attention is required the costs incurred may be considerable, so you should ensure you have adequate insurance cover or alternatively the means to pay,” the Gibraltar government said in their statement.