The main objective of a new European Parliament intergroup is to tackle the stigmatization that patients now suffer in accessing cannabis-based medicines and treatments, according to the socialist MEP Alex Agius Saliba.

On Tuesday (18 May), a new cross-party initiative bringing together over 40 European lawmakers attentive to the issue of medical cannabis in the EU had its inaugural meeting.

In an interview with EURACTIV, one of its leaders explained that the harmonisation of national laws on access to medicinal cannabis is at the top of the group’s agenda.

“It does not make sense to keep treating patients who direly need these prescriptions as second, third, or fourth class patients,” the Maltese lawmaker Agius Saliba said.

He stressed that there should be no difference between a prescribed cannabis-based drug and any other prescribed drug at EU level in order to avoid different sets of rights depending on where patients come from.

Some of the MEPs who have joined the new group come from EU countries such as Germany and Malta where strong medical cannabis legislation is already in place.

“These colleagues could bring good practices from their countries and we can see whether their models can be replicated horizontally in the EU,” he said.

Some member states like France and Denmark have started pilot schemes for medical marijuana use while others like Germany adopted a more institutional approach by creating specific government agencies.

Asked which model he envisages for Europe, he said he would opt for the more structured system adopted in Germany but that the issue is, at the moment, premature.

“The biggest problem is that we cannot pick and choose between the pilot project system and the structured one, as we are starting from the scratch at the EU level,” he said, adding that the first priority must be establishing basic definitions and a set of minimum standards, and then implementing them.