France has approved an official medical cannabis trial and the search is now underway for patients that wish to take part in the experiment.

The French Agency for Drug Safety (ANSM) compiled an expert committee to assess the potential therapeutic benefits of marijuana in December 2018. The 13-strong panel has been deliberating ever since, while leading Canadian companies including Aurora Cannabis have made the case for legalization.

The committee has now decided to authorize a clinical trial featuring French patients suffering from pain that is not yet treated by other medicines. It is looking for anyone in palliative care, epilepsy patients and anyone suffering from the side effects of chemotherapy, while patients experiencing muscle spasms related to multiple sclerosis are also invited to take part.

It represents another step in the right direction for cannabis advocates in France, but anyone hoping to see a regulated medical marijuana industry spring up in the near future will be disappointed.

The experiment will not begin until early 2020 and it will then take two years to complete, before a final report collating all the clinical data will be presented to the committee. Once it has assessed all that data, it may give legalization the green light, meaning it will not happen until 2022 at the earliest.

France is the third-largest economy in Europe and the sixth-largest in the world, so it would be a huge market for the global marijuana trade. The Conseil d’Analyse Economique, a think tank set up to advise the government on policy, estimates that there are 700,000 daily cannabis users in France, while 1.4 million use it on a regular basis.

It argues that cannabis should be legalized for recreational purposes, advising it would create up to 80,000 jobs, while bringing in up to €2.8 billion ($3.2 billion) in tax revenues. That looks unlikely to happen, with Transport Minister Elisabeth Borne clearly ruling it out, but medical marijuana could well be permitted once the painstaking trial process is finally complete.

The trial will not involve smoking cannabis, as patients will be given oils, drops, and capsules at participating pain centres, multiple sclerosis clinics, and other medical centres across the country.

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