Now, the first pharmaceutical agents interested in importing medical cannabis are preparing for the imminent arrival of the first batch of legal medicinal cannabis.
In the last couple of weeks, Maltese patients looking for the medicine have came across one problem: medicinal cannabis wasn’t yet available on pharmacy shelves.
Even though the medicine has been legalised, the bill regulating the manufacturing and importation of the drug hasn’t been passed and enacted by Parliament.
This puts agents interested in importing medicinal cannabis in a sticky situation: patients are allowed to buy cannabis, but importers aren’t allowed to import the medicine.
Associated Drugs, one of the leading pharmaceutical importers in Malta, said that they would be importing medicinal cannabis in its oil form as soon as legislation allows it.
“We are planning to stock and distribute medical cannabis to local pharmacies in the near future,” they told Lovin Malta. “We are currently waiting for the legislation which will regulate the importation and distribution of medical cannabis to be enacted in order start stocking these products. Our plan is to import medical cannabis in oil form.”
While non-Good Manufacturing Practice (GMP) CBD oil is currently available in Malta in some general stores, it is of an inferior quality, and exists in a legal grey area.
A government official confirmed to Lovin Malta that the third reading of the bill is expected in the next two weeks, and a vote will happen by mid-May.
Another local leading pharmaceutical importer told Lovin Malta they hoped to be importing finished form cannabis flowers for medical use by the end of the month.
The flowers are to be vaporised, leading to a quicker therapeutic effect on the body. Up to 8 different strains with varying levels of THC and CBD will be imported by the agent, with the different strains being used to treat different illnesses as best prescribed by doctors.
The agent said that these products would only be available via pharmacies to people patients who had obtained the necessary prescription from a doctor in line with enforced legislation.
A Maltese pharmacist who was open to stocking medicinal cannabis in his pharmacy said that he didn’t anticipate any issues from pharmacists once the importation bill is passed and enacted.
He said that if patients begin showing up to a pharmacy with a prescription for medicinal cannabis, the pharmacy would most probably move to obtain the medicine for that patient.
Unlike the controversial introduction of the Morning After Pill, which put the moral and medical onus of dispensing onto the pharmacist, medicinal cannabis can only be obtained with a doctor’s prescription, shifting the responsibility onto the doctor, and away from the pharmacist.
When contacted, Chairman of the Medicines Authority Professor Serracino Inglott could not confirm when medicinal cannabis products would be available in Malta.
He did say that things were moving “very, very quickly” though.
Saying that the bill had passed its second reading in Parliament, Professor Serracino Inglott said the Medicines Authority had answered Parliament’s questions to the best of their abilities – the decision to pass the bill was in Parliament’s hands now.
He also confirmed that Malta was now permitted to import up to 15kg of THC from the UK, that Malta was also working hard to ensure the country abides by the United Nations’ Narcotics Convention, and that Malta was working with the University of Chicago on testing quality standards.
Professor Serracino Inglott advised patients that were new to medicinal cannabis to start with small doses of THC. He also said that once Malta started undertaking research on the cannabis plant, they would be making the data from their research public and available to the international community.
While he said he was keeping his ears to the ground, Professor Serracino Inglott was hopeful for the future: “If we can eventually cultivate a cannabis product that is high quality in Malta, and produce GMP medicine from that cannabis, it would help ensure that we have a good quality medicinal product in Malta for Maltese patients.”