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Cannabis in Poland – significant changes in legislation, jurisprudence and on the market

The cannabis plant contains many different cannabinoids. The most popular one is THC, (Tetrahydrocannabinol), a substance triggering a narcotic effect. CBD (Cannabidiol) is the second most known cannabinoid  identified in cannabis. It is believed not to have negative psychoactive effects and indicates calming effects. As of 2019, clinical research on CBD included studies related among other things to anxiety and pain, but there is insufficient high-quality evidence that cannabidiol is effective for these conditions. Nevertheless, CBD can be and is used in many countries as an ingredient in food, especially dietary supplements and cosmetics.

Recent developments in Poland concern both substances THC and CBD.

As of 7 May this year, the Act of 24 March 2022 amending the Act on Counteracting Drug Addiction (Journal of Laws 2022.763) will come into force. The most significant change is the repeal of the previously binding prohibition on the cultivation of non-fibrous cannabis for the purpose of obtaining pharmaceutical raw material. The cultivation of non-fibrous cannabis and the harvesting of the plant or resin of non-fibrous cannabis for the production of pharmaceutical raw material may now be conducted in Poland once a research institute supervised by the minister responsible for agriculture obtains a permit from the Chief Pharmaceutical Inspector.  In addition, the new law allows a higher level of THC in raw plant material (from 0.2 per cent to 0.3 per cent).

The liberalization of laws on cannabis cultivation has coincided with a softening of the stance on the marketing of food containing cannabis plants (Cannabis sativa) in case law. In a judgement of 19 November 2021, the Polish Supreme Administrative Court (NSA) overruled an earlier decision of a lower instance court qualifying Cannabis sativa L. as novel food and requiring additional data supporting its safety. The NSA found that this interpretation of the Regulation was incorrect and referred the case for reconsideration (II GSK 1192/21), and by the same token opened the market for food, especially dietary supplements, containing cannabis plants with a high level of CBD.

There was an earlier breakthrough in the cosmetics market, after natural CBD was included in the cosmetic ingredient database, this being the official list of cosmetic ingredients authorized by the European Commission.

All these changes are assessed as offering significant prospects for the development of the cannabis industry in Poland, based on both CBD in the food and cosmetic industry and THC in the pharmaceutical sector.