Government has published amendments to the Misuse of Drugs Law to allow doctors to prescribe “cannabis extracts and tinctures” as controlled drugs.
If approved, the amendments, which will go to the next session of the Legislative Assembly, likely in September, will pave the way for cannabis oil to be made available to patients for medical use.
The law adds the cannabis derived products to a list of controlled drugs that can be prescribed.
It also adds a specific clause relating to the authorized use of cannabis extracts.
Premier and Health Minister Alden McLaughlin has previously cautioned that doubts about the efficacy of cannabis oil in fighting diseases like cancer and the fact that it is illegal in many countries, including under federal law in the U.S., presented practical hurdles to obtaining and importing the drug.
However he revealed last week that government planned to forge ahead with the legal changes in spite of those concerns and the bill was gazetted on Friday.
The proposed addition to the law states, “The use of cannabis extracts and tinctures of cannabis for medical or therapeutic purposes, where prescribed by a medical doctor … as part of a course of treatment for a person under that medical doctor’s care is lawful.
“The medical doctor shall establish the dosage of the cannabis extract or tincture of cannabis required for any person for whom the medical doctor prescribes it.”
The law also empowers Cabinet to make regulations for importation, transport, storage and dispensing of cannabis oil.
Dennie Warren, whose wife was diagnosed with incurable Stage 4 lung cancer in May last year, has become a vocal advocate for cannabis oil to be legalized for medical use. He welcomed the tabling of the amendments Friday.
“We appreciate the government being willing to allow the law to be changed to allow cannabis extracts by prescription,” he said.
“We also need the government to wave the 21-day requirement for the bill and call an emergency meeting of the Legislative Assembly to approve the bill immediately. Cancer patients need urgent access especially, and others do also.”
Some cancer patients in Cayman believe cannabis oil treatment, though unproven in clinical trials, may represent their last chance of a cure.
Medical marijuana is more commonly used to help patients undergoing chemotherapy with pain management and as an appetite stimulant.
The premier has previously indicated that changes to the Pharmacy Law and the Customs Law will also be necessary, but it is understood that this can be done at Cabinet level by altering the regulations to those laws.
The planned amendments are the culmination of a campaign for a change in the law that began in November last year when Mr. Warren and former cabinet minister Cline Glidden made a presentation to government leaders.
The original presentation also asked for legal changes to allow the Department of Agriculture to grow cannabis to ensure a consistent supply, though government has not agreed to that.
Mr. McLaughlin said last week that finding a steady supply of cannabis oil could still be an issue.
“There are still real and serious practical hurdles to obtaining and importing this drug because it remains illegal in many jurisdictions, including nearby Jamaica,” he said.