Bajans and Medicinal Marijuana
If all things are in place for production and manufacturing, Barbadians should be able to access locally produced medical cannabis in just over two years.
This is the estimation of Chief Executive Officer of the Barbados Medicinal Cannabis Licensing Authority (BMCLA), Dr Shantal Munro-Knight, speaking to Better Health Magazine on when and how Barbadians can actually use locally produced medicinal products from the cannabis plant.
The Medicinal Cannabis Industry Act, 2019 was proclaimed on September 30, 2019. It establishes the conditions under which the Medicinal Cannabis Industry in Barbados currently operates.
Provisions for the licensing regime, patient access to medicinal cannabis and the establishment of the regulating Authority, the Barbados Medicinal Cannabis Licensing Authority (BMCLA) and its Board are all found within the Act. Further, the Act is supported by the Barbados Medicinal Cannabis Industry Regulations, 2020. Bajans will have access to locally prescribed medicinal cannabis as there are five such prescription drugs on the drug formulary.
“If people have acquired the license and conditions required for by the Act, local product for the market may not be available until another two years. People who are granted licenses will have to go through the normal process of manufacturing and quality control. The interest we have seen in terms of products has been varied,” Munro-Knight said.
“The legislation provides for products that are topicals like creams and gels and orals like drops or pills. Edibles are prohibited,” underscored BMCLA’s Programme Administrator, Shanika Roberts-Odle.
While the Medicinal Cannabis Industry Regulations provides only for topicals and oral products, the decision for which of these types of medicinal cannabis products that will go on the local market for consumption lies with the Ministry of Health. Only medical practitioners can prescribe medicinal cannabis and only pharmacists can dispense medicinal cannabis to patients.
The BMCLA has been meeting with various stakeholders in the roll out of this new industry, especially the health professionals, including doctors, nurses and pharmacists.
“The response from the medical fraternity has been mixed,” Munro-Knight revealed. “There are those who are extremely supportive and amenable from a patient pain management perspective, and can’t wait to start; and there are those who are not.”
Local production notwithstanding, the legislation also allows for importation of cannabis of medicinal cannabis products from a country or place. Relevant permissions rests with the Ministry of Health.
There has been criticism from some quarters, particularly some members of the Rastafarian community, about being marginalised from what they say is an important opportunity for them.
“This aspect of the Act is aimed at balancing the intention of the Authority to create a locally derived industry while ensuring that local patients have immediate access to medicinal cannabis products to treat their ailments. This balance is important and something will be working on in concrete with the Barbados Drug Service,” Munro-Knight explained.
As to whether people who are prescribed medicinal cannabis will be able to claim for it on their medical insurance, Munro-Knight said: “As medicinal cannabis is now considered a medicine, patients are advised to consult with their insurance companies to determine if there are any claims restrictions under their individual or group plans.” (AK)
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