Poland’s recently instituted medical cannabis market is just starting to take off, with open-ended regulation related to the creation and exportation of products.
In Poland, drugs are governed by the Act on Counteracting Drug Addiction, which doesn’t make a differentiation between cannabis and other drugs. Simple possession or use can land a person in prison for three years. Poland is a treatment before prison country when it comes to drug use, and courts can order offenders into treatment programs instead of prison.
Fines are often given as an alternative as well, as is the removal of certain rights for up to a year as punishment. As of 2011, Poland adopted a law of tolerance for small amounts of drugs which gives authorities the ability to drop cases, mainly those including cannabis. While some reports show this to be the reason for thousands of cases being dropped in the subsequent years, other sources report that offenders are often still taken to court for three grams or less.
Sale and supply crimes (including importing and exporting) are also predictably illegal in Poland, with prison sentences up to five years, with closer to one-year sentences for less serious offenses. Prison sentences for trafficking large amounts can be as high as 12 years.
In Poland, there isn’t a distinction made between growing cannabis, coca (as in the plant responsible for cocaine), and opium (the basis of opiate drugs). Large scale production of any of these three plants can garner a prison sentence of 6 months – 8 years. While there are technically no personal use laws for growing small amounts, appeals have been entertained by the court system, which has so far upheld the current laws, but left room for change in a 2014 verdict concerning a man caught growing for personal use, by stating that legislative decisions should be based in research and the experience of other countries.
Poland has the same legal stipulation concerning cannabis seeds as many other countries like Ireland, where the sale and import of them is perfectly legal, but germinating them is not.
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What about CBD and hemp?
In the case of both CBD (cannabidiol) and industrial hemp, the laws are a bit gray. CBD has not been officially regulated into any category, and though its generally thought of as a food item, there is confusion as to whether that is the correct classification, or if it should be considered a medicine, or a supplement.
It is legal, however. So is industrial hemp, although, much like CBD, there isn’t official legislation concerning max THC levels. As of right now it’s assumed that Poland abides by the EU standard of no more than .2% THC max for both industrial hemp products and CBD, but its unclear if this is upheld.
Medical cannabis legalization
As of November 1st, 2017, medicinal cannabis is legal in Poland. The bill was introduced and pushed relentlessly by Kielce member Piotr Krzysztof Liroy-Marzec, also known simply as ‘Liroy’, who entered politics after gaining notoriety as a rap star. When the law was finally voted on in the Lower House of Parliament, after going through many revisions, it passed nearly unanimously with 440 votes in the affirmative and only two detractors.
Back in 2015, a poll conducted to established what Poles thought of legalization, found that a huge 68% supported medical use fully (only 18% wanted no change in laws at all), even making the statement that denying access is tantamount to cruel behavior. This legalization did nothing to change cultivation laws. It required all cannabis to be imported from other EU countries or Canada at an estimated extra cost of $550 per patient per month.
In February of 2019 products finally hit shelves with two Canadian companies securing the first supply deals: Aurora Cannabis Inc, and Canopy Growth Corporation. As of February 2020, the supply of medicinal cannabis coming in was not meeting the demand of patients.
Qualifications for licensing to grow
Poland did some interesting legislative work when it comes to their licensing and production regulation. When it comes to hemp cultivation, the laws aren’t all that specific leaving some room for prospective growers to enter into the international medicinal cannabis market. Hemp is approved for pharmaceutical as well as industrial purposes so long as the THC content does not exceed .2% (as per European standard).
There are no restrictions on import, export, or processing, leaving the door wide open for all kinds of maneuvers from simple exportation to the importation of materials for product processing. Growing must be carried out in approved locations, using only certified seeds.
Growing permits are issued by whoever oversees the geographical location, whether that be a mayor, city president, or commune head, and before the licensing process can be finished, there must be a hemp buyer contracted who is approved by the governing body for that geographical location. Security infrastructure requirements must be met as well to ensure the hemp is not used unlawfully. Licenses are not given to applicants who have criminal records for the following drug-related offenses:
- Illegally growing poppies, coca, or hemp.
- Illegally growing fiber hemp or low-morphine poppy.
- Seizure for the appropriation or theft of specified illicit substances.
Since there is no specific guideline set for exactly what hemp can be used for, the only requirement is for the final product to meet one of the categories approved for hemp growth: cosmetic products, pharmaceutical, nutritional, chemical, textile, pulp and paper, production of building materials, and general seed production.
Nope, none of that. As an example of the lack of regulation regarding quality in general in the cannabis markets, that part somehow was not included, with no guidelines for testing, limits for pesticides, or other measures for safety, written in.
It also means, on a more immediate and practical level, that producers of products like CBD aren’t required to specify the amount of CBD in the product, and the country and industry itself provide no useful information on things like CBD dosage, dosing by weight, general precautions, or other helpful information related to the product.
A relatively large gap when considering that nearly every respectable product made today will tell you the specifics of its ingredients, and how to effectively and safely use it. One could even say it’s an egregious omission in regulatory law, possibly more an indication of a rush to put the laws in place, and hopefully an error that will be rectified in further regulatory updates.
Every country has its own way of doing things when it takes the plunge into the medicinal or recreational cannabis markets. As there is no global guidebook for the ‘right’ way to grow cannabis, each location is left to establish its own laws for the protection of its own people and the expansion of its own economy. Rushing into the market is becoming commonplace, sort of like shoot first, ask questions later, with the cleaning up of regulatory errors, mishaps, and loopholes done in the aftermath. Chances are, what Poland left out will be filled in, in the coming months or years.
Poland opened up a good service for its citizens, and is improving on it by allowing cannabis cultivation within the country to lower prices for patients. And it also left an interesting door open for the expansion of revenue into the country, with only time to tell how this regulatory setup will play out for the country, which already has the 10th largest economy in all of Europe.
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