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No medicinal cannabis three years after law passed

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Despite Cyprus legalising the cultivation, import, export, and use of medicinal cannabis in February 2019, patients still can’t get access to it.

The Cyprus Patients Federation (OSAK) said people are suffering because of the delay created as authorities have spent the last three years pondering how to implement the legislation.

OSAK said the delays in implementing the legislation are unacceptable, noting that patients who urgently need medical cannabis to manage their health problems better do not have it.

“The legalisation for using medicinal cannabis in Cyprus essentially means absolutely nothing since it has not been made available to patients,” said OSAK.

It argued that there is a misconception about who will have access to medicinal cannabis. As a result, the whole issue has been left languishing in the Health Ministry’s corridors.

“It is of great surprise the Ministry of Health, instead of dealing with the important issues relating to patient access to medicinal cannabis, it has unfortunately been trapped in issues regarding production that have nothing to do with the needs of hundreds of patients”.

OSAK states that cultivation and production should finally be disconnected from the issue of use.

“The state should end the suffering of patients with serious health problems, ensuring a better quality of life”.

The law passed in 2019 provides the framework regulating the cultivation, production, import and export of pharmaceutical cannabis and its use for conducting medical research, producing pharmaceuticals and the free prescription of pharmaceutical cannabis to eligible patients.

The bill was adopted as an amendment to the drug law with 34 votes in favour and 18 against, with major opposition party AKEL MPs and extremists ELAM rejecting the bill.

According to the law, licenses were to be given only to three producers during the first 15 years, aiming to attract financially sound companies with worldwide experience in the cultivation and production of medicinal cannabis.

In comments to the Financial Mirror when the bill was discussed, the head of the Pharmaceutical Services, Louis Panayi, said: “Patients will be supplied with medicinal cannabis by pharmacies upon presentation of a prescription from a specialist physician.

“This process ensures that patients will receive quality cannabis, under the supervision of a specialist, avoiding the need to obtain cannabis of dubious quality from the illegal market.”

Panayi had also given a picture of the benefits the Cypriot economy is to see from the production, distribution, and export of medicinal cannabis to be produced in Cyprus.

He predicted exports would be vast since the global market for the cultivation and production of medicinal cannabis is a ‘virgin one’.

Cyprus has a comparative advantage over countries like the Netherlands (the EU Member State with a monopoly on medicinal cannabis exports) due to its ideal climatic conditions and its long periods of sunshine.

According to estimates, Cyprus could generate €180 mln worth of medicinal cannabis produced yearly, with a big chunk going into state coffers.