Is Denmark's medical cannabis product approval process too harsh?

Published Jul 14, 2020 11:00 a.m. ET
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For decades people all around the world have advocated for access to cannabis for medicinal purposes. We know that it can help and that in many cases, it’s actually a much more effective and safer alternative than anything that you’ll find from pharmaceuticals, and yet some regions are still refusing to adapt to this new reality. Denmark is one of the worst for suppressing their cannabis industry, and it doesn’t seem like that’s going to be changing anytime soon.

Is weed legal in Denmark?

In Denmark, cannabis for recreational consumption remains illegal, and the only option that is available to citizens who require it for medical purposes is by going through a 4-year pilot program that began in January of 2018. Once an individual has applied and been accepted through the program, the only place that they can fill their prescription is the pharmacy and the products that they get to choose from are few and far between.

Now, most would assume that there is a lack of choices to simplify the result of a slow rate of federal marijuana legalization, but Denmark has been researching the effects of cannabis and cultivating it for quite some time, and the region is home to several large producers who are trying their hardest to get some high-quality cannabis products that are effective for medicinal purposes into the hands of patients. Unfortunately, it seems like regulation is getting in the way of that.

How bad is it?

In Denmark, three major cannabis-derived or synthetic drugs have full approval to be sold on the market, and the rest of the interested participants with products were all rejected. Those who are in charge of federal marijuana regulation in the region have taken small steps to open up the market for new eager players to get into medical cannabis, but when you look at the number of rejections from the last round of applications which sits at 55 versus the select few that made the bar, a meager 8, it becomes clear that more needs to be done to even out the playing field.

What causes mass rejections of cannabis products for medicinal purposes?

In order to garner approval to enter the Danish cannabis market, companies need to present a product that meets regulatory compliance standards. Though it is unclear what specific rules or guidelines are in effect, companies who have attempted to navigate the system claim that it is too harsh because, in order to be approved, they need to create low potency products with a consistency that is nearly impossible in many situations, leaving producers pulling out of the region en masse.

Is this a good thing?

Some people believe that strict regulation is necessary for the protection of both producers and those who purchase and use their products, and most would agree that it is of the utmost importance in the case of anything that is used for medicinal purposes. It sounds like a good idea until you have a deeper understanding of what this means for the producers and creators.

In order to get approved in a region like Denmark, cannabis businesses must adhere to all of the strict rules, including a highly controversial cannabinoid limit, which makes the products much less effective for those who need the most intense levels of relief. Many of these companies have spent years formulating cannabis products that can help people to live a better quality of life, but instead, they’re being asked to dim down what they want to offer.

Very few big brands are willing to put their names on medicines, and treatments that they know won’t work for more severe patients out of fear of backlash, especially in a day and age where technology allows all consumers to compare the experiences and effects of specific products. No big business wants to build their brand on mediocre products and poor reviews, so it’s less damaging to back away from the idea entirely, and that costs patients access to some of the best cannabis goods that exist today.

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