Israel is progressing towards dispensing medicinal cannabis through the regular pharmacy supply chain. At first I was against this in practice but over the last few months I have done an 180-degree turnaround. Let me explain:
Cannabis is a Schedule 1 controlled substance in most countries and Israel is no different. Patients who qualify for a license according to a list of conditions can get a “prescription” and their cannabis (either flowers or oral liquids) is supplied currently directly from the grower. There are 8 growers currently in Israel and another 16 planned grow licenses being allocated in 2016. Israel currently has over 22,000 patients registered and many are waiting for the regulations to be broadened.
So why move to pharmacies dispensing medical cannabis?
Let’s look at the alternatives:
- Reschedule cannabis as a medication.
- This means that FDA rules and regs now come into play and getting a new medication to the market requires millions of $$ and 10+ years of time. Yikes !
- Reschedule cannabis to an herbal medicine.
- This is a better option, but no government is moving in this direction.
- Legalize and establish a monitored dispensary system.
- This seems to be working in the USA. However, governments move slowly and in order for this to happen on a large scale, the overall attitude and skepticism towards cannabis as a medicine would have to change.
So on one hand there are models being tested now all over the world, from free access in places like Ecuador and Spain to medical marijuana programs opening up in the Czech Republic, Italy, Croatia, and Australia just to name a few.
BUT there are patients who need cannabis for conditions like epilepsy and Crohn’s who need it now. Again, governments move too slowly.
Israel has taken a novel approach. One that will answer most of these concerns. Pharmacies are a known entity with established protocols and regulated supply trains. Cannabis is a scheduled drug just like morphine and Oxycontin. Why reinvent the wheel? Supply it as a controlled drug and boom! Patients get access, Doctors can prescribe it and governments can regulate it.
Add into the mix a requirement to educate doctors and pharmacists while encouraging medical research and you have a quality, workable system that can supply cannabis to patients fairly quickly and efficiently. This is what the IMCA – Israel Medical Cannabis Agency (a part of the Ministry of Health) is planning.
Educate doctors and pharmacists while allowing certified doctors to prescribe medical cannabis for a list of conditions including:
- Oncology Patients
- Chronic Pain
- Crohn’s Disease
- Ulcerative Colitis
- Multiple Sclerosis
- Parkinson’s Disease
- Tourette’s Syndrome
- Terminally Ill Patients
- Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)
Standardize the strains available based on THC/CBD/Terpene profile so that there are 8 registered products from the many growers who are able to uphold these conditions. In addition, standardize the names of these strains so that there is less confusion for the patient.
Allow broad scientific research in order to expand the list of conditions and delivery methods. So, with minimal government change, patients will have access to medical cannabis through a regulated and monitored system, with a growing list of conditions, all in around 6 months.
Not bad for government. Right?
As a model to introduce a functioning and realistic medical cannabis program into a country, this seems to be the fastest route, and theoretically the path of least resistance.
What do you think about Israel’s plan to distribute medical cannabis through their present pharmacy system? Join the conversation and comment below!