MKs slam failures on medical marijuana distribution

Panel: Ministry can’t assure supply to those who need it.

medical marijuana 311.187 (photo credit: Associated Press)
medical marijuana 311.187
(photo credit: Associated Press)
The Knesset Labor, Social Affairs and Health Committee sharply criticized the Health Ministry on Wednesday for failing to set up a mechanism to ensure that all patients suffering from severe pain and other relevant conditions can get medical marijuana.
Committee Chairman Haim Katz (Likud) said that other countries around the world have managed to do so and that he would push for legislation that would ensure the production and distribution of cannabis for those who need it to cope with their illnesses.
Katz said that since his committee’s first discussion of the problem, nothing had moved forward, and in fact, things had regressed.
Medical cannabis is the only drug sold in cigarette form and smoked; tests must be conducted to ensure that its active ingredient is in the product in the necessary amount. In addition, not all cannabis varieties contain the effective painkilling active ingredient.
Although marijuana possession and use are criminal acts, therapeutic marijuana was for years supplied free to patients approved by the ministry from licensed growers who cultivated the weed as volunteers. But then the demand grew, as smoking certain varieties of marijuana was shown to alleviate more conditions, from the pain of terminal cancer to pain in multiple sclerosis patients.
Some of the supplies were abused and sold illegally, via criminals, to people who were not ill but wanted to get high, leaving inadequate amounts of medical marijuana for patients, who then had to buy it illegally at high cost.
“There is no alternative but to awaken the ministry from its slumber,” Katz declared. He accepted the recommendation of MK Prof. Arye Eldad (National Union), a maxillofacial surgeon by profession, that the committee members should prepare legislation that would regulate the use of medical marijuana due to the “ministry’s failures.”
MK Moshe Matalon (Israel Beiteinu) suggested that an interim solution – including the possibility of patients growing cannabis for their own use under supervision – be found before legislation is passed.
MK Ilan Gilon (Meretz) said it was odd that the ministry has notmanaged to find a suitable model for medical cannabis distribution whena number of models approved by an international treaty have beensuccessful.
Health Ministry associate director-general Dr. Boaz Lev, who wasinitially in charge of medical marijuana allocations but transferredauthority to Abarbanel psychiatric hospital director psychiatrist Dr.Yehuda Baruch, said that “we have not yet found a solution to theproblem, because even the international treaty makes it difficult forus. Unfortunately, patients are suffering, so the state and thelegislature have to create order.”
Baruch said that the ministry tried and enabled growers and processors to charge NIS 360 for each package of 50 grams.
“We added another distributor and closed one because he was unable tomeet our conditions. Petitions to the High Court of Justice [againstus] made it difficult for us to function,” Baruch added.