In recent years, the discourse surrounding medical cannabis has been evolving, and Europe is no exception. A groundbreaking study conducted in Belgium has provided valuable insights. It has shed a light on the prevailing attitudes, knowledge gaps, and the influence of social trust. Additionally, a comprehensive survey conducted in Germany further underscores the all the complexities. As we delve into the findings of these studies, we gain a comprehensive understanding of the European landscape and witness the shifting attitudes towards medical cannabis. Let’s check what we already know and we can start the year 2024.
Belgium’s perspective: knowledge gaps and social trust
The Belgian study, encompassing 656 participants, revealed a generally positive sentiment towards medical cannabis. Participants displayed favorable opinions about the risks and rewards associated with medical cannabis, along with positive behavioral intentions. However, a notable knowledge gap was identified, indicating insufficient understanding of both subjective and objective aspects of medical cannabis. This knowledge deficit emphasizes the need for comprehensive education and awareness initiatives to bridge the gap between perception and reality.
Social trust emerged as a significant factor shaping opinions. Higher social trust correlated with increased perceptions of risks and decreased perceptions of benefits associated with medical cannabis. The study’s identification of three distinct groups within the population—cautious, positive, and enthusiastic—underscores the diverse perspectives that exist, with age and education influencing openness to medical cannabis as a therapeutic option.
Germany: perspectives among medical professionals
Germany, having legalized medical cannabis in 2017, is a key player in the European medical cannabis landscape. Cantourage’s survey, conducted in 20 major German cities, revealed diverse opinions among general practitioners regarding cannabis therapy. The study focused on a fictional case of a patient with sleep difficulties, and the responses varied significantly across cities.
Düsseldorf and Münster stood out as cities where doctors were more willing to accept cannabis therapy, while cities like Hannover, Bochum, and Dresden showed higher rejection rates. The survey also highlighted disparities in opinions about the effectiveness of cannabis in treating sleep disorders, with some practitioners expressing skepticism. Florian Wesemann of Cantourage emphasized the broad therapeutic potential of cannabis, challenging the notion that it is ineffective for certain conditions.
European overview: country-wise breakdown
A broader European perspective was gained through a Statista study conducted between October 2022 and September 2023, encompassing 2,000–6,000 participants across various countries. The study aimed to understand the opinions of people aged 18 to 64 regarding medical cannabis for therapy.
Poland emerged as a leader in acceptance, with 42% expressing a willingness to explore medical cannabis as an alternative therapy. Germany, Austria, and Switzerland followed closely, with acceptance rates around 37%. While the UK, Netherlands, Spain, and France reported lower acceptance rates, ranging from 20% to 26%, these figures still highlight a substantial interest in medical cannabis within these populations.
What to expect in 2024?
The year 2023 has provided a comprehensive snapshot of the European public’s perception of medical cannabis. It was showing a nuanced landscape shaped by knowledge gaps, social trust, and varying professional opinions. As we enter 2024, it becomes crucial to address these nuances through targeted educational campaigns and open dialogues. Thus, it will foster a more informed and accepting approach to medical cannabis across Europe. The evolving landscape suggests that continued research and open communication will play pivotal roles in shaping the future of medical cannabis acceptance in the region. We can see that countries become more flexible for medical cannabis, as Ukraine for example. Will it become more common?