EU top court backs Russian patient needing cannabis meds
The European Union’s top court ruled on Tuesday the Netherlands should not expel a Russian seeking cannabis treatment for cancer as such therapy was illegal in his home country.
The Russian, who was not named for privacy reasons, took the Dutch state to court in 2018 when it turned down his application for asylum in order to be treated with medical marijuana.
The man, now in his mid-30s, suffered from a type of blood cancer since he was 16, saying medical care with the drug in the Netherlands was “so essential to him that he would no longer be able to lead to a decent life if that treatment was discontinued”.
He asked Dutch authorities to give him a residence permit or at least postpone his removal to Russia for him to continue with the treatment.
His latest application for asylum was struck down in 2020.
The Hague District Court referred the case to the Luxembourg-based European Court of Justice for guidance.
On Tuesday the ECJ backed the Russian man’s claim, ruling “EU law precludes a Member State from adopting a return decision or removing a third-country national who is staying illegally and suffering from a serious illness.”
This was “where there are substantial grounds for believing that returning that national would expose him or her, on account of appropriate care not being available in the receiving country, to a real risk of a rapid, significant and permanent increase in the pain caused by his or her illness,” an ECJ statement said.
But it pointed out the ECJ “does not decide the dispute itself” and it is “for the national court or tribunal to dispose of the case in accordance with the Court’s decision.”
The use of cannabis is illegal in Russia and has made headlines since US basketball star Brittney Griner was sentenced to nine years in prison by a Russian court in August for drug smuggling.
The WNBA star said she had permission from a US doctor to use medicinal cannabis to relieve pain from her many injuries.
The Netherlands has no such issues with the medical use of cannabis and has tolerated the sale of cannabis in coffee shops for personal use since 1976.