The Right to Pot

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The European Union’s top court ruled in favor of a Russian asylum seeker who is trying to stay in the Netherlands on the grounds that he would lose access to medicinal cannabis if he was returned to his home country, Politico reported.

The case centers on a Russian man who developed a rare blood cancer at the age of 16. The plaintiff said he needs medicinal cannabis to help manage the effects of his cancer. Cannabis is unavailable – and illegal – in Russia.

He appealed a decision by Dutch authorities to reject his asylum request to stay in the Netherlands. A local Dutch court referred the case to the EU’s Court of Justice, according to the Associated Press.

On Tuesday, the court found that the man’s need for medicinal cannabis for the treatment of his condition trumped the illegality of his stay in the Netherlands. It noted that the absence of treatment would lead to pain “of such intensity that it would be contrary to human dignity,” noting that the agony would cause the plaintiff “irreversible psychological consequences, or even lead him or her to commit suicide.”

Legal analysts explained that the case highlights how the right to health supersedes any other consideration, adding that the verdict applies to any medical treatment – not just access to medicinal cannabis.

Others noted that this decision is binding on the entire EU.

It is now up to the Dutch court to make the final decision but the guidance from the EU court is heavily weighted.

Russia outlaws the use of cannabis for recreational and medicinal use. The strict policy became a major international issue following the conviction of WNBA star Brittney Griner, who was detained after Russian customs officials said they found vape canisters containing cannabis oil in her luggage.

The two-time American Olympic gold medalist said she had been prescribed cannabis for pain.

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