Marijuana 311 (R).
(photo credit: Robert Galbraith/Reuters)
A physician should be appointed at every general hospital in the country to
prescribe medical marijuana and not just to relieve pain from cancer, Knesset
Labor, Social Affairs and Health Committee chairman MK Haim Katz (Likud) said on
Sunday after a tour Friday of the Tikun Olam farm for growing medical
Katz was shown all stages of production and a new species of
cannabis developed by the company over a period of three years that does not
contain THC (tetrahydrocannabinol), the principle psychoactive ingredient in
marijuana. The senior company staffers showed Katz the many security measures to
meet the demands of the Israel Police for preventing the drug – whose use is
illegal among those who have not been given a Health Ministry license – from
getting into the wrong hands. In past Knesset committee hearings, some Israel
Police representatives have said that there is a black market of medical
cannabis obtained by healthy people for recreational use.
They also told
Katz that providing medical cannabis to patients who have severe pain that does
not react to conventional medications reduces costs to the health system not
only by saving on pain relievers but also on special feeding techniques. The MK
met cancer and Parkinson’s disease patients who said their condition was much
improved by using medical marijuana.
There are only six physicians around
the country authorized to give prescriptions to cancer patients, Katz said, and
two more for alleviating other diseases that entail severe pain and suffering.
He said he would immediately contact Health Ministry director-general
Ronni Gamzu and ask him to improve the situation. If not, Katz said
he would promote a private member’s bill to make medical marijuana more
available to those who legitimately need it.
It is unfair that only those
patients in six hospitals can get the treatment, said Katz, even though “its
efficacy is clear and well known. This is serious and unnecessary discrimination
and causes patients much suffering.”
“In the first stage, it should be
obtainable from every medical institution, and not only for cancer patients. In
the second stage, I will work toward medical cannabis being prescribed in the
usual way, like any other prescription drug without exhausting
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Some have received authorization only after their deaths,” he
The ministry, Katz concluded, must solve the bureaucratic
failures that prevents the field of medical marijuana from
“My committee will act to promote this subject in primary
legislation if the ministry drags its feet,” he said.
Asked to comment,
the ministry stated that the use of medical cannabis in Israel is “unprecedented
and encompasses about 10,000 patients.
Despite its popularity, its
efficacy has been proven only in a limited number of medical indications, such
as for side effects of chemotherapy, certain aspects of multiple sclerosis,
Parkinson’s and specific pain syndromes.”
The ministry added that in the
last few months, the use of cannabis has undergone adjustments and arrangements
by the government, including the writing of policy drafts on registration of
prescriptions and for appealing decisions. It has also set down what
examinations are necessary on the plants to ensure that the concentrations meet
treatment standards, the ministry said.
Nevertheless, medical cannabis
“does not have the status of prescription medications that must undergo a series
of tests and trials requiring certain levels of purity. It can cause side
effects that must be dealt with carefully. Making exceptions to the rules for
medical use and creating shortcuts are liable to hurt the quality of treatment
and patient safety,” the ministry said.
“The medical community continues
to follow new developments and proof of treatment effects and will act in
accordance with them to suit the regulations to medical needs.”
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