PRESS STATEMENT ON THE PROPOSED MEDICINAL CANNABIS AMENDMENT
ReLeaf would like to applaud the Government of Malta's recent steps towards legalising and regulating medicinal cannabis. This is a long overdue step in Malta's healthcare, and it shows that the Government is taking note of a global shift towards the effective use of cannabis as a medicine.
We especially applaud the allowance of family doctors to prescribe medicinal cannabis as they see fit, which is in line with our proposals in the ReLeaf Manifesto. We also applaud the issuance of licenses for those who would like to manufacture cannabis related products in Malta, something that was also proposed in the ReLeaf Manifesto.
However, we must note with disappointment that there are certain measures in the proposed amendment to the 2015 Drug Dependency Act that we see as counterproductive. If these measures are included in the final amendment, very little progress would have actually been done, and just like the 2015 Drug Dependency Act, it will be a case of too little being done, too late.
Worst of all, it will condemn Maltese patients to continue to resort to the black market for their much needed medicine, as the situation is right now, and will show that the Government does not have Maltese patients best interests at heart.
The amendment is proposing that patients need not only a prescription, and not only a "control card", but that each patient and doctor must get each individual prescription approved by the Superintendent of Health. This is a terrible approach to health, and will incapacitate the new system from the get-go.
Forcing a patient to have each and every prescription to be approved by the Superintendent of Health will only increase waiting times and bureaucracy, the opposite of what Minister Chris Fearne said he wanted to do with this amendment, and worst of all, it will continue to treat cannabis as something illicit instead of as a beneficial medicine.
This is not the approach the Government of Malta should be taking towards a medicine. We are also disappointed to see that only products with cannabis extracts will be available to Maltese patients, and not the cannabis flower. Not allowing patients to access the natural plant to use as they would like - in tinctures, teas, oils, edibles, or via inhalation - is once again severely limiting a patient's health options.
It is important to note that other countries' inclusion of the cannabis flower as a medicine is due to the swiftness and speed of inhaling the cannabis medicine, which is essential in treating chronic pain - such as found in Fibromyalgia - in an instant.
Forcing patients to buy expensive extracts when they could turn to the black market and buy a natural product from which they could make their own medicine will be a losing strategy for the Government, and will only strengthen the black market. Thousands of Maltese cannabis users are now watching the Government's next moves closely, and on behalf of them we would like to thank the Government for taking this important step towards regulating medicinal cannabis.
However, if the amendment is half-baked, and does not put the needs of the patients first and foremost, then progress will only have been made on paper, and not in the real world.