By Roland Sebestyén
While the government of the Isle of Man has passed legislation that would allow licenced businesses to cultivate, sell and export medical cannabis globally, it is now reported that GPs won’t be able to prescribe the drug for those in need due to the coronavirus pandemic.
According to the BBC, the Isle of Man has paused its grand plans to allow doctors to prescribe medicinal cannabis. Health Minister Dave Ashford said the topic is still “on the agenda”, but his department is very busy fighting against the coronavirus pandemic.
He said: “With everything else that DHSC is doing at the moment – we are absolutely stretched to the hilt – something has to give, or the department will give.
“To be quite blunt, there are other things taking a higher priority.”
Medical Cannabis on the Isle of Man
After a public consultation where the citizens of the island overwhelmingly supported a cannabis reform, last November, Mr Ashford, a government Minister and well-known medical cannabis advocate told Canex that 2021 could be huge for the future of medicinal cannabis on the island.
According to the Department of Enterprise, a regulated medicinal cannabis market would put £3m in the island’s budget annually.
Mr Ashford then said: “Even if there were relaxation in the drug policy, medicinal cannabis would still be required to be a prescribed product. It would not have over-the-counter availability.
“The most important change could be to have the drug to be prescribed by more practitioners than simply those on the specialist register.
“However, the timing of regulations changing would depend on a multitude of things, such as legislative drafting availability, consultation with practitioners, and ultimately Parliamentary approval.”
In January, MPs have unanimously backed a proposal that would update the Misuse of Drugs Act 1976.
Part of the plan is that certain businesses and people living and working on the Isle of Man could apply for a licence that would permit them to work with the cannabis plant.
The documentation will cost between £250 and £45,000. With this, the government says 250 jobs can be created in the medical cannabis sector.
Mark Rutherford from the island’s Gambling Supervision Commission (GSC), which is proposed to regulate the cannabis industry, said: “The Island has a track record as an early adopter of new sectors.
“Over the course of the past 20 years acting as the regulator for the Island’s eGaming sector, the GSC has developed expertise in keeping the industry crime free, protecting consumers and providing transparency, and this experience is complementary to the skills that will be required for this new and emerging sector.
“This is an exciting opportunity, and we have a sophisticated framework for supervising gambling which can be easily adapted to regulate the cultivation and processing of cannabis.
“We recognise there is huge potential for this new sector to create real positive economic benefit so we need to ensure we treat the new cannabis sector like we have treated the gambling sector: that license stakeholders that are competent, credible and crime free from the outset.”
With the government’s latest decision, the grand opening has been delayed.
While MP, Douglas South MHK Claire Christian, said IOM should follow Jersey’s lead and let a few GPs prescribe the drug, HM Dave Ashford said the pressure on the department eventually shifted their focus.
As a result, there is currently no date in mind for when will the island begin trading and working within the medical cannabis market.