Health officials in Holland have extended the country’s experimental medical marijuana programme for another five years.
The plan, which was launched in 2003, is designed to allow growers licensed by the Bureau for Medical Cannabis to build a customer base and eventually take over production from illegal manufacturers.
It will also give pharmaceutical companies a chance to develop and patent cannabis-based prescription drugs.
Health minister Ab Klink said in a letter to parliament that one Dutch company, Echo Pharmaceuticals BV, has made progress in gaining approval for its drug, and he wants to give it more time.
He said: “This development track will take years, but it can yield scientific evidence and give insight into the balance between safety and effectiveness of medical cannabis.
“By making medical marijuana available as a raw material for five years, I want to give this track a serious chance.”
A spokesman for Echo Pharmaceuticals said the company is to start trials of its pill next year.
The medication contains one of the main active chemicals in marijuana, THC, in purified form.
The Dutch health ministry has also announced that the British company GW Pharmaceuticals, which sells a marijuana-based oral medicine in Canada, has withdrawn from the approval process.
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