An earlier version of this article attributed proposals by MP Godfrey Farrugia to the government.
An act to amend the Drug Dependence (Treatment not Imprisonment) Act of 2015 will be discussed in Parliament today, and could determine the future of medical cannabis in Malta.
The bill, which will be undergoing its second reading in a plenary session in Parliament this evening, clarifies what the government’s position on medical cannabis will be.
1. No smoking products will be allowed
The bill states that “none of the preparations … may be indicated for smoking or in any form meant for smoking.”
2. Only artificial products or extracts will be allowed
Only medicines made from artificial cannabinoids or products using cannabis extracts will be allowed. No natural products will be permitted.
3. All licensed medical practitioners are entitled to prescribe medical cannabis
Any licensed doctor can prescribe cannabis if the above requirements are met. The Superintendent of Public Health must sign off on a patient’s prescription.
If the application meets all the Superintendent’s requirements, then “prescriber, pharmaceutical wholesale dealer and the pharmacist receive a copy of the application endorsed by the Superintendent for Public Health”. Patients may also need to apply for and be be approved for a “cannabis control card”.
Superintendent of Health Charmaine Gauci
4. Cannabis prescribed only if “no viable alternative” exists
A patient can only be prescribed medical cannabis if their doctor as well as the Superintendent determine that there are no other medicines on the market that heal or address their ailment.
5. All preparations requested by medical practitioners are “to comply with the Medicines Act or manufactured under Good Manufacturing Practice”
All products must undergo quality testing to adhere to the “Good Manufacturing Practices” that are currently detailed in the guidelines published by the European Union Commission.
6. The Superintendent of Health must approve everything
The Superintendent of Health still holds final authority over any sick person’s chance of accessing medical cannabis. However, it is being proposed by some MPs that the Superintendent must reply within 15 days of a family doctor’s submission to the Drug Control Regulatory Unit on behalf of a patient.
Maltese cannabis lobby group ReLeaf have criticised the bill, with the group’s co-founder Eric Castillo telling Lovin Malta “that not allowing the flower version of the medicine will continue pushing patients to the black market.”
Similarly, Maltese medicinal cannabis users have also said they “do not understand” why the government is making the situation harder for patient who need their medicine.
Partit Demokratiku’s Godfrey Farrugia has proposed stricter measures, saying that medicinal cannabis should only be allowed to people above the age of 18, and not allowing a set of professionals to access cannabis, such as public bus or school van drivers, or people who own a commercial driver’s licence, as well as soldiers, policemen, correctional officers and civil service officers.
MP Godfrey Farrugia’s proposal for Medical Cannabis
Step 1 – Apply for a Medical Cannabis Control Card
Step 2 – Meet the requirements and be accepted for the Control Card
Step 3 – Have the Control Card signed by a family doctor and a community pharmacist
Step 4 – Find a doctor who will prescribe medicinal cannabis
Step 5 – Ensure that there are no other medicines at all that can be applied to your illness
Step 6 – Be included on a governmental list of “named-patients”
Step 7 – Have the doctor send a generic email to the Superintendent of Health
Step 8 – Wait up to two weeks for confirmation
Step 9 – Have the Superintendent approve the email by sending another email to the prescriber, pharmaceutical wholesale dealer and the pharmacist
Step 10 – Go to a pharmacy and access your medicine
Questions sent to the Health Ministry were not answered at the time of publishing