Despite challenges for Norwegian patients, there is hope for change. MedCan Norway and similar organizations are working on several education initiatives to adequately apprise doctors, politicians, and health professionals.

NORWAY, one of the most conservative countries in Europe regarding cannabis, recently held a town hall session to discuss better access to medical cannabis.

The event, which took place in the capital city earlier this year, brought together politicians from across the political spectrum alongside patient representatives, medical professionals, and industry investors.

According to officials from the event sponsors, MedCan Norway, Normal Norge, and FTR Oslo, this was the country's first event signaling the very early (but positive) first efforts towards long overdue reform.

Norway's first medical cannabis conference occurs this year, which could help medical cannabis research be more on par with its European Union neighbors.

Cannabis in Norway

The Scandinavian country, which has a population of just over 5.4 million, is one of around fifteen European countries to legalize medical marijuana technically.

The Norwegian Medicines Agency granted GW Pharma's Sativex permission in 2016 to treat MS (multiple sclerosis) while establishing new guidelines for a specific framework for medical cannabis approval.

While other products are considered available 'under special circumstances,' it remains challenging for any patient to access medical marijuana.

According to a survey conducted by Normal Norge, it suggested that 29% of total cannabis consumers were medical users in the country. Only about 5.9% of those get it from their primary physician, of which less than 1% had it delivered to a Norwegian pharmacy or drug store.

Due to the challenges of obtaining medical cannabis, 72.4% of patients get cannabis from the illegal market, while 3.8% cultivate it themselves, and 1.5% buy it overseas.

Cannabidiol, or CBD, is also considered a prescription drug in Norway. It can only be purchased in limited amounts, only with a doctor's prescription, and cannot be ordered privately, domestically, or abroad.

However, Norway was poised to take the lead over its neighbors regarding drug reform in 2017 when it voted to decriminalize drugs and focus on treatment and harm reduction therapies rather than punishment. However, these progressive reforms were voted down three years later, in 2021.

Barriers to access

According to Normal Norge: Medical cannabis is technically legal in Norway but incredibly complicated to obtain. Most doctors are either ignorant of cannabis therapy or are less than apathetic toward patients seeking treatment. As a result, most Norwegians seek therapy in Denmark or the Netherlands.

According to one of the panelists, patients who self-medicate with cannabis are often stigmatized within the community. The perception of medical cannabis therapy by Norwegians still has a way to go.

Also, if doctors discover you have been self-medicating, you will be denied many treatment offerings.

He added that many medical professionals continue to base their opinions on cannabis therapy based on research published more than a decade ago that concluded that the side effects were too severe and that the plant had no medicinal value despite studies from Israel and the United States.

Steps towards progress

Despite challenges for Norwegian patients, there is hope for change.

The medical professional's knowledge of cannabis as medicine in Norway is generally very low, and that's why it's seldomly prescribed, and that's what MedCan Norway wants to change.

The organization says it is working on several education initiatives to apprise doctors, politicians, and health professionals adequately.

Norway's first conference on medical cannabis will also take place later in 2023. And according to reports, Oslo University Hospital has applied for funding to launch medical cannabis research, which could significantly impact attitudes toward prescribing it in the country.