A Maltese chronic pain sufferer who was recently informed by the health authorities that he had to give up his driving license in order to access medical cannabis has now been informed this is not in fact the case.
A pharmacist from the Superintendence of Public Health had originally sent a template to the patient’s doctor Andrew Agius, instructing him to fill it out and send to the police to medically advise them to rescind his patient’s driving license.
Agius was informed that this procedure had to be adhered to if his patient was to continue accessing the medicine after an initial trial run. Here the official cited an obscure and unenforced law which states that patients under the effect of psychotropic drugs are not allowed to drive and that doctors who prescribe such drugs must inform the police of their patients’ driving status.
Health Superintendent Charmaine Gauci gave credence to the announcement when questioned by Lovin Malta, saying all doctors who prescribe medication which can hamper the ability of people to drive safely are obliged to inform the police in terms of the Motor Vehicles (Driving Licenses) Regulations of Maltese law.
Andrew Agius runs The Pain Clinic in Paola
Yet it proved quite controversial, with PL MEP candidate Cyrus Engerer calling for a change in law and cannabis lobby group ReLeaf warning the procedure will force medical cannabis to resort to the black market for their medication.
However, Gauci appears to have backtracked from her original stance.
Speaking to this website, Andrew Agius said he cleared the air with Gauci, who told him that the revocation of a driving license is not in fact a prerequisite to access medical cannabis.
“She told me it is my responsibility as a doctor whether or not to request the police to revoke my patient’s driving license,” Agius said. “I don’t know exactly what went wrong. The pharmacist who spoke to me must have misunderstood the procedure.”
Nevertheless, the procedure to acquire medical cannabis remains more bureaucratic than that to acquire other more intense psychotropic medications like morphine or valium.
Unlike other drugs, doctors who prescribe medical cannabis must sign a declaration declaring full responsibility of the patient’s use of the medicine and forward it to the Superintendence of Public Health.
Malta legalised medical cannabis earlier this year
Other details that must be submitted to the Superintendence include a copy of the patient’s original prescription, control card and medical history and a detailed report on the effects the medical cannabis had on him/her. If the patient suffers from a mental illness, the doctor must also sign a declaration that s/he has been reviewed by a psychiatrist.
“Yes, it does involve quite a lot of paperwork but to be honest, it’s a very professional setup,” Agius said. “If doctors weren’t obliged to prepare detailed reports on each of their patients and monitor them regularly, they probably wouldn’t have kept these records in the first place. So far, the feedback I’ve received from my chronic pain patients has been fantastic and many have told me medical cannabis is the best remedy they ever had to combat their pain.”