Medical marijuana patients in Cyprus, an island in the Mediterranean Sea, are finally receiving cannabis oil. Patients who have applied to the Health Ministry and have been approved will receive their first doses in the coming days.
Medical marijuana advocate Petros Evdokas said cannabis oil was being delivered directly to pharmacies where registered patients would receive it.
“Orders are for specific, named, people. This medication is not handed out en masse,”
Cyprus’ medical marijuana program is only allowed to be prescribed to cancer patients in the late stages of the disease. Legislation announced in January said that for those qualifying patients, cannabis oil would be provided free of charge.
Evdokas mentioned “unfortunately almost half of the applicants died before they received their medication.”
The method to importing cannabis is similar to the method Australia had been using up until recently. Patients applied for cannabis oil on a case-by-case basis, importing only enough for each patient from countries like Canada and Israel. The Health Minister George Pamboridis announced earlier this year that comprehensive medical marijuana legislation is being developed, but critics believe the delay is due to politics.
“The Minister is not exercising his powers to the full, only to the tragic minimum,” Evdokas said, believing that politics, the stigma of drug use and commercial interests may be slowing down progress.
In addition to a government-regulated cannabis market, Evdokas would like to see Cyprus become an agricultural producer of medical marijuana, noting the ideal climate could spawn a new industry.
“By legalising the cultivation process, in less than two years Cyprus could become the medicinal cannabis capital of a large part of Europe, producing enough for local needs and exports and adding a new branch to its medical tourism product,”
Israel, who shares the same environmental climate as Cyprus, has become a world leader in medical marijuana research. It has begun to draw medical professionals and cannabis entrepreneurs from all over the world. Part of their success has been facilitated by a government and Health Ministry that welcomes research and collaboration. Currently, the United States still categorizes marijuana as a Schedule I narcotic, which has stifled research opportunities and slowed progress.
The turning point for medical marijuana legalization in Cyprus was due to 19 year-old Giorgos Michael, who petitioned the Supreme Court for access to medical marijuana to treat his brain cancer. Michael passed away one day after the court ruled in his favor.
Evdokas says that the state is obligated to provide medicine to those that are suffering, and should have done so even before medical marijuana was legalized. “It is the state that is breaking the law, not the people,” he said.