Reform may allow physicians to prescribe medical marijuana

At present, only a small number of doctors authorized by the ministry can prescribe it, and the drug is obtainable only from a limited number of growers.

January 21, 2016 05:03
2 minute read.

A marijuana leaf. (photo credit: REUTERS)


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If Health Minister Ya’acov Litzman’s reform in the use of medical cannabis, now being formulated, succeeds, within six months physicians could give patients a prescription for it, according to ministry rules, that could be filled in all pharmacies.

At present, only a small number of doctors authorized by the ministry can prescribe it, and the drug is obtainable only from a limited number of growers.

The Knesset Labor, Social Affairs and Health Committee held a joint session with the Anti-Drug and Alcohol Committee to discuss the reform.

The first stage will be carried out in a few weeks, said Litzman, adding that suffering patients who need medical marijuana have a right to receive it honorably. They will not have to cope with red tape and long queues.

“We will supervise it rigorously and make sure that only those who need it for medical reasons will get it. Today, there are 23,000 users of medical marijuana in Israel, compared to 10,000 in Germany, said Litzman, who opposes the import of the drug.

Anti-Drug Committee chairman Meretz MK Tamar Zandberg said that “we all understand that we are on the path to medicalization of cannabis.”

A group of current users called on the ministry to expand the number of prescribing doctors immediately.

“People are dying and suffering [from lack of the drug],” they said. “We have heard grandiose promises, but so far there are no answers. There is plenty of bureaucracy that doesn’t know how to deal with individual cases.

There is no transparency in the ministry, and we don’t know how decisions are made on prescriptions.”

Litzman countered: “You received a finger, but you want the whole hand. I will now allow cannabis to roll in the streets. I am willing to listen and assess the reform after six months.”

Hagai Hillman, chairman of the cannabis growers group, said that the reform “was prepared too fast and without consulting experts among the growers and doctors.”

Litzman answered that all would be invited to comment on the reform.

Meanwhile, according to new research at Ariel University carried out by Dr. Liat Koren of the department of health management and Dr. Hagit Boni-Noah of the criminology department, there has been a 500 percent increase in the smoking of marijuana and hashish in the last six years.

A representative poll of 1,500 students over the last six years showed that more than a third had tried marijuana, 48% of the men and 29% of the women.

Single or divorced people without children were more likely to use it than married people with children. Secular or traditional Jews were more likely to smoke it than the religious or ultra-Orthodox.

Homosexuals and bisexuals were more likely to use it than heterosexuals.

People who broke various driving laws, such as going through a red light or driving too fast, and people who admitted to stealing something valuable, such as a smartphone, or hitting someone they didn’t like, were more likely than law observers to use marijuana.

Smokers of hookahs and cigarettes were also more likely to marijuana than nonsmokers.

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