Over 400 patients in Malta are receiving medical cannabis as part of their treatment.
More than 30 local doctors have prescribed the medicine, which was legalised in March, 2018, as part of the treatment programme their patients are undergoing.
While it is impressive progress for the island, Minister for Health Chris Fearne today said that this was still a small number when compared to the overall numbers of doctors in Malta.
Medical cannabis has been legal for over a year now, yet patients have complained about the ‘outdated’ restrictions that remain.
People who drive in their work, people who have been to rehab, or people with a criminal record have a lower chance of being prescribed their medicine since, under current regulations, their doctor must take responsibility for them, and anything they do, while using the medicine.
Many doctors have balked at the extra responsibility, especially considering medical cannabis is such a new drug in Malta.
Patients have also pointed out at the exorbitant costs of medical cannabis, with one patient calculating his costs at €5,000 a year.
Beyond that, doctors have complained about the lack of training by authorities in the rollout of the new medicine, with some saying they still aren’t exactly sure what it can be used for since they had no previous experience with it.
Others have said they would be interested in prescribing it, if they had stronger guidelines and more reassurance from authorities. Indeed, one of the first things doctors were told after cannabis was legalised was that they didn’t really need to prescribe medical cannabis in most cases.
There have also been mass shortages as importers failed to predict the demand in the local market.
Addressing a room full of medical cannabis industry insiders, Fearne said that a major challenge was the education of patients, since their safety should be his “first consideration”. Secondly, another challenge was the lack of clinical evidence and research into medical cannabis.
Malta’s medical cannabis industry is set to explode, with Prime Minister Joseph Muscat forecasting that Malta will export over €1 billion in medical cannabis over three years.