Netherlands cannot deport medicinal cannabis user to Russia, European court rules
A Russian citizen whose asylum application was rejected by the Netherlands cannot be deported as he needs to take medicinal cannabis as part of his treatment for cancer. Because cannabis is illegal in Russia, even for medicinal purposes, he cannot be sent from the Netherlands back to his home country, the European Court of Justice said in a ruling issued on Tuesday.
In its ruling, the court said the man was diagnosed with a rare form of blood cancer when he was 16. He is receiving treatment for it in the Netherlands. “His medical treatment consists, inter alia, of the administration of medicinal cannabis for analgesic purposes,” the court said.
The court ruled that European Union law forbids Member States from deporting a citizen from outside the EU if they suffer from a serious illness, and if they are being deported to a country where appropriate care cannot be made available. Even if they are staying in the European Union illegally, they cannot be sent away if it exposes them “to a real risk of a rapid, significant and permanent increase in the pain caused by his or her illness.”
The court noted that someone cannot be sent out of the EU to a country where the absence of an effective analgesic treatment would “expose him or her to pain of such intensity that it would be contrary to human dignity in that it could cause him or her serious and irreversible psychological consequences, or even lead him or her to commit suicide.”
Until Tuesday’s ruling, Dutch immigration authorities only defined a medical emergency as being those situations which would “result in death, disability or other serious psychological or physical harm within three months.” The court suggested that this term, while feasible, had not been fairly applied in this specific case.
The man’s application for asylum was last heard in the Netherlands by the District Court of the Hague, who ruled against him in 2020. He first applied for asylum in the Netherlands nine years ago, and is now 34 years of age.