In Finland cannabis has been used for medicinal purposes only in isolated cases, partly because of complicated legal issues and the sensitivity of the subject.
Just over a year ago the National Agency for Medicines granted its first special permission for medical cannabis for a man suffering from chronic pain stemming from a back injury.
The Agency had initially rejected the application for the use of medical cannabis prescribed by a Dutch doctor because its interpretation of the law was that prescribing cannabis was absolutely illegal in Finland. The patient appealed the case to his regional Administrative Court, which overturned the decision.
The patient's condition has improved significantly during the past year, says Turku pharmacist Markku Knuuttila, who dealt with the application process.
The special permission, which was initially granted for one year, has now been extended for another year.
The court decision has forced the Ministry for Social Affairs and Health to clarify legislation. A few months from now changes are to be enacted to allow marijuana by prescription.
Under the plan, even after the changes, medical cannabis prescriptions will require the permission of the National Agency for Medicines.
Cannabis is not expected to be used as extensively as opiates, but in certain cases it has been found to provide relief for the muscle spasms of Multiple Sclerosis, chronic pain, and glaucoma.