A 4 min read

The wider use of cannabis in food and medicine requires regulatory improvement


Armands Gūtmanis, director of the consulting company Meta Advisory, emphasized at the seminar that the use of cannabis products in various areas of the world is rapidly increasing, new niches are appearing, thus Latvia also has prospects for both cannabis cultivation and use. In order to promote this, regulatory changes are needed both in the European Union and in Latvia, therefore it is very important to take into account the experience of other countries in this field.

Jānis Grasbergs, Parliamentary Secretary of the Ministry of Agriculture, emphasized that cannabis is one of the crops in the EU’s Green Course Sustainable Products group. Cannabis is an environmentally and human-friendly crop, and the promotion of the high-value properties and versatility of cannabis would be important for development. But it is up to the growers, producers and distributors themselves.

Cannabis in food

During the last five years, the number of cannabis cultivation in Latvia has remained unchanged – about 900 ha of the applied area per year. Most are grown for food, but producers have a strong interest in expanding the production of foods containing cannabidiol (CBD). Jānis Grasbergs explained that 87 applications for authorization to place CBD-containing products on the EU market as novel foods have been submitted to the European Commission.

There is quite a lot of pressure on the European Commission, so it is expected that changes in the law are will happen in the near future.

The EU allows the use of cannabis (Cannabis sativa) products and plant parts, such as seeds, seed oil, seed meal, defatted cannabis seeds, in food. However, any marketing of the psychoactive substance cannabis tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) has a completely different pharmaceutical regulation.

Cannabis-derived CBD or other cannabinoid-containing products as foods, ingredients or food supplements are not allowed to be placed on the EU market because there is no proven history of significant human consumption in the EU before 15 May 1997. Uldis Šauers, a member of the board of the Latvian Industrial Cannabis Association (LIKA), emphasizes that folklore data collectors have evidence of cannabis products in food 100 years ago, where cannabis was used during childbirth, both on the wedding table and as a powerhouse for children school and works such as “Kamis” – crushed peas, beans and hemp. These records have been sent to the European Industrial Cannabis Association (EIKA). EIKA and LIKA are cooperating and preparing applications for amendments to the laws on changes to the new food laws in order to promote the competitiveness of all cannabis industries in Europe in the choice of varieties and forms of cultivation.

Jānis Grasbergs also informed that in addition to the single area payment for hemp, which is 94 euros per hectare, farmers have the opportunity to receive a payment for climate- and environment-friendly agricultural practices – 54 euros per hectare, and voluntary coupled support for protein crops – 80 euros per hectare. Also in the period of 2021-2027, support will be available for construction, purchase of machinery / equipment – three million euros, for home producers, which will be recognized – 300 thousand euros. For more detailed information, Jānis Grasbergs calls to contact the Rural Support Service.

Cannabis in medicine

“In the future, patients will benefit from cannabis drugs – certain medicinal products, both natural, precisely dosed plant extracts and synthetic cannabinoids – but qualitative research is still needed,” Romualds Ražuks, assistant professor at the Faculty of Medicine, University of Latvia, emphasized at the seminar.

A powerful international industry for the production of medical cannabis preparations has been established and the use of the preparations is expanding every year. International law mandates the control of cannabis plants and products, but allows their use for industrial and medical purposes.

Indian cannabis and its derivatives are called medical canabis, which contains THC – the only psychoactive substance in cannabis, CBD. In medical cannabis, THC is the most important because it affects the action of phytocanobinoids. Potential therapeutic effects of medicinal products have been demonstrated in bronchial asthma, oncology against nausea, vomiting, stimulates appetite and the main is analgesia, cancer-induced neuropathic pain when other drugs are not effective. Improves health in psoriasis patients. The positive effect has not been ruled out in the studies, but of course the studies need to be continued.

Michael Aaron, physician, anesthesiologist, algologist: “We have cannabinoid receptors throughout the body. With cannabinoids, we can treat and regulate not only central pain mechanisms, but also peripheral pain mechanisms. There are already six high-quality studies on diabetic polyneuropathy and HIV and AIDS. polyneuropathy, which showed a positive advantage over placebo, as well as multiple sclerosis, decreased spasm, at different THC concentrations. “

Although the plant has a 1,000-year history of drug use, there is controversy between supporters and opponents between different organizations

such as the U.S. Pediatric Academy, which opposes legalizing CBD for medical use, but at the same time CBD is used to treat severe epilepsy in two-year-olds.

Already today, a number of countries allow the medicinal use of all cannabis plants, including our neighbor Lithuania. Other countries are Poland, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Greece, Australia, Canada, Chile, Colombia, Israel, Peru, Portugal, Uruguay, 33 states in the United States and the District of Columbia.

Next steps in medical cannabis use. The example of Lithuania

Romualds Ražuks emphasizes the need for a legislative basis, determination of priority areas of application. It is based on public education, training of doctors and pharmacists, and continuation of research.

For example, from 1 May 2019, cannabis can be produced, distributed and used for medical purposes in Lithuania for medical purposes. This is provided for in the amendments to the Law on the Control of Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances of the Republic of Lithuania.

Cannabis substances may be used for healthcare purposes provided that they are part of an authorized medicinal product. The cultivation of cannabis plants is still prohibited in Lithuania. Companies can manufacture, import, export, sell (wholesale or retail) medicines containing cannabis substances after obtaining an appropriate license. The establishment must have adequate facilities for storing medical cannabis; the pharmacist responsible for storing and reporting the medical cannabis and complying with the requirements of good repute.

Romualds Ražuks concludes that the foreign experience is neutrally positive. In cases where traditional pharmacotherapy is not effective, there is no need to be afraid to use medicinal cannabis, but this requires further research.

The industry continues to grow at a rapid pace. You can find ways to control and track it.

The online seminar was organized by the consulting company Meta Advisory in cooperation with the Latvian Industrial Cannabis Association and the Latvian Pain Research Association.

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