Premier Alden McLaughlin has instructed government lawyers to draft legislation allowing local doctors to prescribe cannabis oil, which is derived from the marijuana plant, for medical purposes.
Mr. McLaughlin said Monday during his speech to the Legislative Assembly on the government’s policy initiatives over the next year in office, that the administration had “carefully considered” the merits and drawbacks of using the cannabis derivative.
“Government is persuaded that it is better to favor hope and compassion over fear,” he said.
The premier cautioned that his proposal did not amount to acceptance or legalization of cannabis use for recreational purposes. He said the oils that can be gleaned from the cannabis plant have been used in medical trials to treat cancer patients.
He said he did not support the use of the cannabis plant itself for medical or other uses.
However, the premier said, “time was of the essence” in some cases now affecting Caymanian families on the islands.
“I wish [those who oppose the use of cannabis oil] could have been present when a young Caymanian … said that his wife’s choice currently is between death and death,” Mr. McLaughlin said. “That is their reality. There is no standard [cancer] treatment currently that gives them any hope.”
Cancer survivor and former West Bay MLA Cline Glidden has been involved in advocating the medical use of cannabis oils since his own cancer diagnosis in 2014. Mr. Glidden said, up to this point, his cancer has been in remission thanks to more traditional methods of treatment.
However, he said he is aware of at least two other Caymanians who’ve been told that traditional cancer treatments will not be effective in their respective cases.
“I do know what it’s like to be told you have cancer and that you have a six percent chance of survival,” Mr. Glidden said. “I can only imagine the point of saying [to someone], the traditional methods aren’t working.
“I commend the government for acknowledging [the need] and working against the norm. I haven’t found anyone who can fault that.”
Medical marijuana has been discussed by Legislative Assembly members – most notably by Bodden Town MLA Alva Suckoo – in recent years, though a formal motion on the subject has never been brought to parliament.
In 2014, then-Health Minister Osbourne Bodden said he wanted to see “proof beyond a reasonable doubt” that medical benefits could ensue from marijuana use.
More than a dozen U.S. states have passed laws allowing some degree of medical use of marijuana, and 17 states have decriminalized it.
A number of clinical conditions had been treated with cannabis with varying degrees of success.
This story has been corrected from the original.