Health Minister Dr Duane Sands.
By AVA TURNQUEST
Tribune Chief Reporter
A MEDICAL marijuana conference is tentatively set for this autumn with an endorsement from the Ministry of Health.
Dr Lynwood Brown, a member of the non-profit group, Bahamas Cannabis Initiative (BCI), told The Tribune plans to bring experts and industry stakeholders to the Bahamas to educate on medical cannabis products, treatments and modes of delivery have been underway for several months and are now just waiting for a green light to proceed.
"We are waiting on the letter from the minister of health who has promised me that I will have that letter, it's just a matter of him getting it to me," Dr Brown said.
"He has in principle agreed, but it is a necessary thing because our partners are not prepared to act without this letter.
"Because we don't want to be in contravention of any law, we sought to get the permission from the minister of health, and subsequently the minister of national security, because we need to import samples as well as crops to demonstrate different products and different modes of delivery."
Dr Brown continued: "Many Bahamians are uninformed about the uses of medicinal marijuana. I thought it would be prudent to first start by educating people. So we're targeting educating people on different modes of delivery of medical cannabis and the different diseases that can benefit from cannabis."
Yesterday, Minister of Health Dr Duane Sands said: "The (Ministry of Health) encourages and supports all educational activities that contribute to a healthy, objective public understanding. This conference will have the endorsement of the ministry. That said, we in no way endorse any specific position or opinion expressed by the presenters or the organisers. We look forward to a balanced, objective, evidence-based symposium."
A government-appointed committee will be given three to four months to conduct widespread town hall meetings on the possible legalisation of medical marijuana in the country, according to Prime Minister Dr Hubert Minnis last week.
He first announced the planned creation of a marijuana committee earlier this month on his return from a CARICOM Heads of Government meeting, where a regional report calling for the end of prohibition of the plant was discussed.
Ahead of the regional report's release, a Public Domain survey found overwhelming support for medical marijuana among Bahamian residents across demographics of age, gender and income. The survey was commissioned by Bahama Cann, the for-profit arm of BCI.
Legal pathways already exist for medicinal and scientific use of cannabis - legislatively defined as "Indian hemp" - in the country.
Dr Sands, who has responsibility for dangerous drugs and poisons, confirmed to The Tribune the Dangerous Drugs Act provides an opportunity to request imports for a specific purpose.
However, acting Chief Medical Officer Dr Pearl McMillan said the ministry's records do not indicate that an application under the Dangerous Drugs Act for "Indian hemp" has ever been made.
It is classified in part II of the act along with coca leaves, crude cocaine, and raw opium.
Yesterday, Dr Brown said: "I have two individuals who I sent away to get medical marijuana for treatment of their particular ailment. They had been on several different types of medication, all proved ineffective. Recently (former Minister of State for the Environment) Phenton Neymour said it was the only thing that allowed him to eat and keep food down. It is a very potent appetite stimulus. We can use this in our AIDS population, one of the things those patients experience is loss of appetite and rapid weight loss."
Dr Brown continued: "The shackles are being removed, it is liberating. I'm very excited to be living in these times. The Bahamas is now moving towards what the rest of the world has moved towards a long time ago.
"I'm going to test it," he said. "I have no fear in testing it because I am sworn to do my best to help my patient. If this is something I need to do, if I'm ridiculed for it I'll accept it willingly. I'm going to fight for the rights of my patients, so as soon as I get a patient who needs it, I will apply. I won't apply for application sake."