Is it time to legalise medical marijuana?

What you need to know:

  • The ban on cannabis denies patients access to its medicinal value.
  • The plant contains cannabinoids, which have been subject to scientific research that has shown they are beneficial.

The Pharmaceutical Society of Kenya (PSK) has designed a plan that would make it easier for patients to access medical marijuana.
The medics want Parliament to amend the law to ensure controlled production and supply of cannabis because it’s a matter of both improving public health, and ‘accepting the reality’. The ban on cannabis denies patients access to its medicinal value.

MEDICINAL USE
Following the introduction of the Marijuana Control Bill in 2018, the PSK interrogated the medicinal benefits of cannabis and the necessary regulation that would accompany non-prohibition of its supply for medicinal use.

The society recommends implementation of the provision in Section 3 Subsection 3 of the Narcotics and Psychotropic (Control) Act of 1994, which permits medical practitioners, dentists, veterinary surgeons, registered pharmacists and persons with cannabis prescriptions to possess cannabis for medical purposes.

The PSK chief executive, Dr Daniella Munene, said that while the law allows for prescriptions of medicinal cannabis, it does not give a framework for cultivation or supply. “PSK recommends controlled production of cannabis by or with direct oversight from the Pharmacy and Poisons Board (PPB), PPB, for the control of herbal, complementary and pharmaceutical products,” Dr Munene said.

COMPELLING EVIDENCE

She said the PPB should prescribe and enforce standards and guidelines for strain selection, cultivation, harvest, transportation, quality, storage, processing, packaging and market authorisation of cannabis products.

There should be a framework that is instituted by the national and county departments of health to treat and rehabilitate victims of cannabis addiction, she added.

Mr John Ochola, a legal researcher, said there is a lacuna in law that needs to be addressed to ensure patients have access to medical cannabis.

“It does not make sense to have a law that allows prescription of medical marijuana yet the same law does not provide an avenue for sourcing of the same,” he said.

Before his death, the then-Kibra MP Ken Okoth had drafted an Act of Parliament to control the cultivation, production, manufacture, testing, sale, labelling, advertising, transportation, promotion, import and export of medicinal cannabis products.

POSITIVE OUTCOMES

Dr John Weru, an assistant professor and consultant palliative medicine physician at Aga Khan University Hospital, said that any discussion on the medical use of marijuana and or its extracts must aim to have the law align to this requirement.

The plant contains cannabinoids, which have been subject to scientific research that has shown they are beneficial.

“The most compelling evidence of the positive outcomes of the use of cannabinoids is their effect on pain control, and appetite stimulation and thus weight gain in patients suffering from life-threatening illnesses such as cancer and Aids,” he said.

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