The Dutch government is planning to issue a second licence for the production of medicinal cannabis to meet growing demand patients.
The only company authorised to produce cannabis for medical use, Bedrocan in Emmeloord, has increased its output fivefold in the last five years to 2,604 kilograms.
Bedrocan received its licence 16 years ago from the Office of Medicinal Cannabis (BMC), which buys the entire stock and distributes it to hospitals and pharmacies. Around half of it is sold abroad to countries including Germany, Italy and Poland.
The BMC, established by health minister Els Borst in 2000, is expected to start the European tendering process for a second licence in early June. An earlier attempt to issue a second licence for medical cannabis was abandoned after an objection was made to the procedure.
Bedrocan produces five types of cannabis with different levels of THC and CBD. The main advantage of medicinal cannabis is that the strength and quality of the drug is much more consistent than the varieties grown for commercial use.
Cannabis sold in ‘coffeeshops’ is also more likely to contain impurities such as pesticides, making it unsuitable for a clinical setting.
Among the medical community there is growing interest in the use of cannabis as a painkiller, although the Dutch Society of Family Doctors (NHG) maintains there is currently ‘insufficient evidence’ that the drug relieves pain or improves patients’ quality of life.
Albert Dahan, professor of anaesthesiology at Leiden’s UMC, said further research should be carried out into the effects of using cannabis as a painkiller, especially im combination with drugs such as morphine.
‘I was fairly sceptical in the beginning, so we decided to investigate and saw that thc had a visible effect. I can see there being scope for using cannabis in future,’ he said.
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