After vote legalizes medicinal cannabis oil, supply becomes the issue

A legislative vote Monday has cleared the way for cannabis oil to be prescribed in the Cayman Islands for cancer patients and other medical issues if the government can find a legal supplier.

Lawmakers approved a key second reading of a bill that will amend the Misuse of Drugs Law to allow the substance, derived from the marijuana plant, to be prescribed by local doctors and carried by Cayman pharmacies.

However, Premier Alden McLaughlin said the legislation may require some committee-stage amendments before final passage to address concerns raised by some lawmakers – including the premier himself – about supply and importation.

No one in the Cayman Islands currently manufactures the oil, and importing the drug from the U.S. could prove difficult, if not impossible, due to federal prohibitions on the international transport of such substances.

“I support what the government is endeavoring to do, I’m just not sure it is going to be possible,” North Side MLA Ezzard Miller said.

Caymanian Dennie Warren Jr. first brought the issue to the Progressives-led government political caucus last year after finding out chemotherapy and radiation treatments for his wife, who has stage 4 lung cancer, would not be effective in treating the disease.

Mr. Warren said Monday night, after passage of the bill, that he was not certain where cannabis oil might legally be imported from currently. However, he said several countries, including Jamaica and Canada, have given indications that they were considering legalization for medical purposes.

“It’s better to have [the local] law in place, so we’re ready for it when it happens,” Mr. Warren said.

All present lawmakers supported the passage of the amendment bill to allow for the legalization in Cayman, despite the difficulties with supply that could arise.

“I would like to thank all of the members for their support of the bill,” Mr. Warren said. “It is my view that the members of the House do not yet fully comprehend the significance and the importance of today’s decision to move this legislation forward.

“Science, I believe, will one day give cannabis the credit it deserves in a number of areas. It feels good to know that the Legislative Assembly of the Cayman Islands had the courage to be in the forefront of this very important development.”

Some concerns have been expressed about whether passage of the legislation may be the first step toward the legalization of ganja in Cayman, but both major political parties indicated that was not something their members would support.

“I think for now, we’re going as far as perhaps we can go,” Opposition Leader McKeeva Bush said.

Premier McLaughlin noted earlier this year in the Legislative Assembly that the government would support a proposal to legalize cannabis oil, stating that he would rather the government erred “on the side of hope” in this particular issue.

“[Mr. Warren] felt this option would give his wife some hope,” Mr. McLaughlin said.