European Union Commission Clears Transnational Medical Marijuana And Research Initiative For Signature Gathering

European Union (EU) officials have cleared activists to launch a signature drive for a multi-national initiative that would foster access to medical marijuana and promote research into the therapeutic potential of cannabis.

The European Commission announced on Tuesday that it has agreed to partially register the initiative, meaning advocates will have six months to start a petitioning drive and then one year after that point to collect one million signatures from at least seven member states to force consideration of the proposal.

The activists behind the measure laid out three objectives they want the commission to pursue, but the body said it could only register two of them.

One approved objective asks the commission to “foster access to medical cannabis and allow the transportation of cannabis and its derivatives prescribed for therapeutic purposes to ensure the full enjoyment of the right to health.” The other requests that EU allocate “the necessary resources for researching cannabis for its therapeutic purposes.”

The commission said it is not in a position, however, to register another objective to “convene a trans-European citizens’ assembly on cannabis policies, including sanctions and the consistency of Member States’ policies.”

“The Commission had to refuse the registration of the first objective of the initiative, as it falls outside the Commission’s powers to submit a proposal for a legal act on this matter,” it said.

“The Commission has not analysed the substance of the proposals at this stage,” it added. “The decision to register the initiative insofar as its second and third objectives are concerned, is of a legal nature and it does not prejudge the final legal and political conclusions of the Commission on this initiative and the action it would intend to take, if any, in case the initiative obtains the necessary support.”

Organizers had originally put forward a slightly more expanded version of the initiative last November, but the objectives were consolidated after an initial review and feedback from the commission.

If proponents do collect at least one million signatures within the one-year timeframe, the commission will “have to decide whether to take action in response to the request or not and will be required to explain its reasoning.”

The measure, titled the “European Cannabis Initiative” (ECI), says that the EU has “progressively adopted common positions on innovative approaches to human right-centered drug policies, a stance reflected in its participation in relevant United Nations meetings.”

It also points out that member states such as Germany, Luxembourg and Malta have advanced broader reforms to legalize marijuana.

“The lack of significant progress in the containment of illicit narcotics around Europe imposes a radical rethinking of the approach that for decades has not reduced drug demand and supply. There is no evidence that toughening penalties has brought about a more effective European drugs control system, while it has constructed resources to reduce the risks and/or harms connected to problematic drugs use. This ECI intends to address some of the reasons why that happened.”

Meanwhile, last year a group of United Nations (UN) experts called for an end to the global war on drugs—and a separate drug policy commission comprised of presidents and prime ministers from around the world advocated for legal and regulated access to currently illicit substances.

In the background of this possible EU cannabis initiative, leaders of the coalition government of member state Germany recently said they’ve reached a final agreement on a bill to legalize marijuana nationwide, resolving outstanding disagreements that had delayed action and setting the stage for a vote in the final week of February and enactment in April.

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Photo courtesy of Mike Latimer.

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