George Pamporidis, the health minister of Cyprus, recently announced that cannabis oil will be made available to cancer patients in advanced stages.
According to Cyprus Weekly, the program has a strict criteria for approval. Pamporidis made the announcement in late January, and said that access to cannabis oil will only be limited to cancer patients in their advanced stages, for whom other treatment methods have proven to be ineffective.
This program requires cancer patients to submit an application to the health ministry directly if they need access to cannabis oil for treatment purposes. If the application is approved, the ministry will provide cannabis oil free of charge.
He also added that provisions have been drafted for medical cannabis legalization more comprehensively. According to Politis, a Greek-language newspaper, this preliminary version of the bill will be made open for public consultation before it is presented in parliament for debate and possible improvements before approval.
Pamporidis started this initiative two months after he tweeted about the potential benefits of using cannabis for medicinal purposes, in order to have an open conversation with the public and see their views and opinions.
Although this program is first of its kind and groundbreaking for Cyprus, the provisions for legalizing the use of medical cannabis for treatment of cancer patients have been passed in several other countries. For example, Canadian doctors prescribe medical cannabis for the treatment of cancer and its symptoms, such as loss of appetite, chronic pain, and nausea.
However, unlike other countries with legalized provisions for cannabis cultivation, Cyprus has yet to introduce legislation that enables local businesses and individuals to legally engage in domestic cultivation for this medical program. Moreover, authorities in search of reliable legal suppliers of medical cannabis from overseas, as the government is also considering the possibility of buying cannabis oil from foreign companies in Israel, Croatia, and Canada.
Since the introduction of the Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances Law in 1977, cannabis cultivation, sale, and use have been banned in the country. Under this legislation, people engaged in any of these activities will face harsh penalties, as it considers cannabis as a Class B drug.
The European Centre for Monitoring Drugs and Drug Addiction (EMCDDA) has imposed severe punishments for people found in possession of cannabis. If a person is caught with less than 30g of cannabis, they could face a prison sentence of up to 8 years. If it is more than 30g, it will be presumed as a supply offence, leading up to a life sentence in prison.
In the past two months, Cyprus is the third country in the EU to have announced plans for making medical cannabis available to people. Last year in December, the lower house of the Irish parliament passed a bill that legalized the regulation of medical cannabis products. After one month, the German parliament’s lower house passed a bill for the same purpose; however, it specifically outlined that the use of cannabis will be allowed in only exceptional cases.
It is expected that both bills will pass their upper houses of their respective parliaments without impediment.
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