Following a trend in other EU countries, the House of Representatives voted by majority on Friday to legalise medical cannabis, opening up a potentially lucrative new sector while satisfying growing calls for legalisation, not least from the medical community.
The amendment to the law on narcotics and psychotropic substances will allow the cultivation, importation, possession and use of medical cannabis.
It allows the adoption of special regulations to import cannabis seeds and plants to Cyprus and to introduce licensing fees and impose administrative fines in the event regulations are flouted.
As regards the cultivation of medical cannabis parliament voted by 34 votes in favour to 18 against. The amendment also permits the import and export of medical cannabis as well as its use for medical research and for the preparation of galenical (plant-based) pharmaceuticals for medical use.
The law will licence only three producers, at least for the first 15 years, with the aim of attracting financially robust companies with experience in the cultivation and production of medical cannabis.
This limited number of licences is intended to act as an incentive for companies that choose to invest in Cyprus but also facilitate checks to ensure that medical cannabis does not end up on the illegal market or is used illegally.
Which people are eligible?
Medical cannabis will be administered with a prescription to patients suffering from chronic and persistent pain that among other are linked to cancer, HIV, mobility problems, rheumatism, kidney problems and glaucoma. It will also be available for those suffering from Tourette’s syndrome or Chron’s disease.
Earlier this week, the European Parliament approved a resolution calling on the European Commission and member states to address research gaps on medical cannabis and seize the potential of cannabis-based medicines.
The resolution called for a clear distinction between medical cannabis and other uses of cannabis. And it urged the Commission and member states to address regulatory, financial and cultural barriers which burden scientific research and invited them to properly fund research.
The EU, too, should embark on more research and stimulate innovation with regard to medicinal cannabis projects.
MEPs called on member states to allow doctors to use their professional judgement in prescribing cannabis-based medicines. When effective, these medicines are to be covered by health insurance schemes in the same way as other types of medicine, they say.
The regulation of cannabis-based medicines would translate into additional revenue for public authorities, would limit the black market and ensure quality and accurate labelling. It would also limit minors’ access to this substance, they said.
MEPs say that there is evidence that cannabis or cannabinoids may be effective in increasing appetite and decreasing weight loss associated with HIV/AIDS.
Medical cannabis may also help to alleviate the symptoms of mental disorders such as psychosis or Tourette syndrome, and to alleviate the symptoms of epilepsy, as well as Alzheimer’s, arthritis, asthma, cancer, Crohn’s disease and glaucoma. They also help to reduce the risk of obesity and diabetes and ease menstrual pain.
Whilst the WHO has officially recommended that the cannabis compound cannabidiol (CBD) should not be classified as a controlled substance, legislation in member states differs widely on the subject of cannabis for medicinal purposes.