France on Friday authorized the first experiments on cannabis for medical use in a controlled environment.
Under a Health Ministry decree, testing will begin before March 2021 on a group of 3,000 patients, but reserved only for those who are seriously ill.
The National Assembly had earlier authorized the start of cannabis testing for therapeutics but the coronavirus pandemic delayed the process.
Some 30 countries worldwide permit the use of cannabis for therapeutics. Out of the 27 member countries in the European Union, only 22 have greenlighted its use; France now joins that group.
The move was welcomed by the group Collective Alternative for Cannabis for Therapeutic Purposes, or ACT. In a press release, the group welcomed the milestone as "late but historic" and added that more work needs to be done.
"ACT calls for the establishment of a lasting status for this drug, which must be prescribed beyond experimentation," it said.
Lawmakers as well as patient groups have been urging the government to bring testing to the fore.
Ironically, however, just last month Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin had disdained the plant with an expletive, saying he was firmly opposed to its legalization.