The European Court of Justice, the highest court in the EU, has ruled that the government of the Netherlands cannot legally implement a deportation order against a Russian citizen who is currently undergoing treatment for a rare and debilitating form of blood cancer in the Netherlands. His treatment protocol includes medical marijuana, a substance that is prohibited in the patient’s home country Russia.
The patient in question is a male, aged 34 years. Since 2013, he has been undergoing treatment in the Netherlands. He asserts that medical marijuana has enabled him to reduce the pain he feels by approximately 70%, and the doctors treating him say there aren’t any superior treatment modalities available for this man’s case.
The patient has repeatedly applied for asylum and residency, but the Dutch government rejected his applications on the ground that he should have filed those applications in Sweden where he first arrived after leaving Russia. The most recent refugee status application was rejected early in 2020, just before the COVID-19 outbreak paralyzed international travel. This case was then referred to the EU court for interpretation after exhausting the appeals process in the Dutch court system.
The EU court noted that under Dutch law as well as the applicable EU conventions, an order to deport someone may be stayed or temporarily suspended under some conditions. Those conditions include being able to prove that their health may be adversely affected if they are sent back to a country where they aren’t able to access essential treatment that was available while they were in the country that is deporting them.
The Dutch government argued that there is no scientific proof that medical marijuana has been alleviating the patient’s chronic pain, and there are plenty of pharmaceuticals approved for use in managing this pain. The Dutch government was therefore of the opinion that removing the Russian resident from the Netherlands wouldn’t put their health in jeopardy since they would be able to access other treatments in their home country.
The European Court of Justice disagreed, asserting that EU law doesn’t allow member states to deport a person if doing so is likely to adversely affect their ongoing treatment, as is the case with the Russian patient, given that medical cannabis is illegal in Russia.
It should be noted that the Netherlands legalized medical marijuana back in 2003, and doctors can prescribe it for a variety of conditions that include chronic pain. This case shows that the push to chip away at marijuana prohibition isn’t only playing out in the backyard of the jurisdictions where businesses such as REZYFi Inc. operate but also on the international stage.
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