In Slovenia, 80 percent of cancer patients use cannabis oil!

Friday, 28 October 2016


Slovenia has a sizable number of cannabis users, many of whom do not use it for recreational purposes but have begun using it for therapeutic ones instead.

While hemp oil is used for food, cannabis oil is used for medicinal purposes. In addition to the oil extracted from cannabis, which has a high content of THC, there is also an industrial cannabis oil extract. This has a lower THC content (below 0.2 %) and also contains CBD, which has medicinal effects.

In Slovenia, more than 200 000 people have tried cannabis. The share of adolescents aged 15–16 who have tried cannabis ranges from 23 to 25 percent. This share has remained relatively stable since 1997.

According to statistics, between 40 and 70 percent of patients in Slovenia have resorted to alternative medicinal products, which indicates that alternative medicine is popular among Slovenians. This includes the growing use of cannabis oil as an alternative medicinal product for the treatment of cancer. Cannabis oil is most frequently used by cancer patients, and since trends indicate that the number of cancer patients in Slovenia will continue to increase at an annual rate of 3 percent we can assume that the use of cannabis-derived products will grow at approximately the same rate.

 Furthermore, in terms of cannabis, Slovenia is regarded as a transit country where cultivation of the plant for personal use is widespread. Although the level of self-sufficiency has already been reached, cannabis and hash are still being imported due to the fluctuating supply of cannabis on the market.

Annual national reports on drugs show that more than 4500 drug offences are recorded annually and law enforcement agents carry out more than 1500 house searches each year (Slovenia has a population of just over two million and more than 70 percent of minor and criminal offences involve cannabis).

That means that in the twenty years since Slovenia has gained independence, more than 86000 offences have been committed and more than 30000 house searches have been conducted because of cannabis alone!

Slovenia has a relatively well-developed cannabis market. Cannabis growers use all known cultivation and processing methods. Other practices include the decarboxylation of cannabis oil, mixing cannabis oil with coconut oil and the production of tincture. Extraction methods involve the use of solvents such as alcohol, isopropyl alcohol and butane, as well as CO2, ice, etc.

In spite of the wealth of information available we still face many problems, therefore, the main objective of is to educate and provide information. Quick provision of accurate information is a crucial aspect of protecting users from substances with potentially dangerous effects.

New synthetic cannabinoids have appeared on the market and it is likely that these will soon be used to ‘treat’ illness. It is also likely that a situation similar to the one involving cannabis oil will evolve and put patients and users at grave risk.

In Slovenia, it is possible to buy a legal product known as Dronabinol with a prescription from one’s personal physician. Dronabinol was classified as a Schedule II drug in 2014 while cannabis oil (the cannabis extract with a THC content above 0.2 percent) was reclassified as a Schedule II drug in 2016.

All available information shows that cannabis has been consistently present in Slovenia for the past twenty years. However, trends have shifted in that period; since 2009 the use of cannabis and cannabis oil has been increasing among the older population, i.e. older individuals suffering from illnesses, as well as among users aged over 45 who had quit using in the past but have recently started using again.

There is a legal preparation available on the market, however, it remains inaccessible to 97 percent of patients, partly because of its price but mainly because doctors still lack sufficient knowledge to prescribe it.

This drug has been available to patients since 1971 when the UN amended its list of illicit drugs and classified Dronabinol (THC) as a Schedule II substance, which meant that THC could be used in medicine. Slovenia adopted this reclassification only in 2014!

Are patients likely to use pharmaceuticals derived from cannabis? According to current data and forecasts that will not be the case or, more specifically, it will depend on the price of the products and their content of active substances.

The fact remains that the use of cannabis and products made from cannabis as well as the cultivation of cannabis will continue regardless of the threat of penalties. The government will eventually have to recognize that its policy regarding cannabis needs to improve, that the cannabis market must be regulated and that the persecution of those who possess cannabis plants for personal use must be severely limited. It would be wise to allow patients to grow and process cannabis plants for personal therapeutic use.

As regards other patients, the state should allow unrestricted access to medical products made from cannabis, including cannabis flos and cannabis oil. The use of such products should be covered by medical insurance. This is the only way to ensure the stabilization of the cannabis market and prevent the use of synthetic cannabinoids for ‘treatment’.