The Netherlands’ only approved medicinal cannabis producer may soon have company – and competition.
Nederlandse Omroep Stichting (NOS – Dutch Broadcast Foundation), which is part of the Netherlands Public Broadcasting system, reports the country’s Office for Medicinal Cannabis (BMC) wants to issue the second license.
Currently, only one company is authorised to produce medical cannabis products in the Netherlands – Bedrocan – and it’s had the distinction for 16 years.
Bedrocan, which also has an Australian presence, claims it was the first and currently the only medicinal cannabis producer in the world to producing medicines according to the EU guidelines for good manufacturing practice (GMP).
While cannabis is easy to come by in the Netherlands, medicinal cannabis is in a class of its own, subject to stringent regulations regarding consistency and quality. Products are tested by an independent laboratory for levels of active ingredients, moisture content and contaminants such as heavy metals, pesticides and/or potentially harmful microorganisms. Once passing muster, the cannabis is irradiated and sent to the distribution company.
Medical cannabis has been available to patients in the country since September 2003. Doctors can prescribe it for treating or managing any condition where they believe it can provide more benefit that previously used medicines.
According to NOS, BMC purchases all that Bedrocan can produce – around 80 to 100 kilos a week. The BMC also has a monopoly on the import and export of medical cannabis.
The second licence will be issued by BMC to address product demand and provide variation. This isn’t the first time BMC has sought to issue a second licence. An attempt was also made last year but the effort was derailed due to objections concerning the process.
DutchNews reports the tender process for the new licence is expected to start next month. The same source has previously reported around half a million people in the Netherlands use cannabis medicinally; but most of these people do not have a prescription. It seems, as in Australia, accessing pharmaceutical grade cannabis is not a simple exercise in the Netherlands – and as is the case here, it’s expensive.