In May 2016, Premier Hon Alden McLaughlin told his legislative colleagues that his administration had carefully considered the merits and drawbacks of using the cannabis derivative, cannabis oil, in the treatment of certain cancers and that government is persuaded that it is better to favour hope and compassion over fear.
He said at the time that he had instructed government lawyers to draft legislation allowing local doctors to prescribe cannabis oil, which is derived from the marijuana plant, for medical purposes.
The Premier and Minister for Health fell short of giving his blanket support for the development of medical marijuana in the Cayman Islands or for legalisation of the drug stating his proposal did not amount to acceptance or legalisation of cannabis use for recreational purposes.
Mr McLaughlin said, The oils that can be gleaned from the cannabis plant have been used in medical trials to treat cancer patients, however he added that he did not support the use of the cannabis plant itself for medical or other uses.
In his conclusion, the Premier stated, time was of the essence in some cases now affecting Caymanian families on the islands.
That was three months ago and the families of people in need of the treatment are saying that what was considered time crucial has become bogged down in bureaucratic red-tape.
Speaking on local radio talk show Straight Talk on Thursday 4 August, Dennie Warren Jr. who originally first proposed the concept of cannabis oil for the treatment of cancer in the Cayman Islands, explained that his proposal was carefully thought out and considered, and because of the narrow definition that he sought, the relevant changes could have been achieved immediately, by the Cabinet, without further delay.
According to Mr Warren, Drugs are regulated in the Cayman Islands by the Misuse of Drugs Law. Section 3 of this law makes it an offence to possess controlled drugs unless authorised to do so. Certain drugs however, such as cannabis, which is found on the list of controlled substances, can be prescribed by a medical doctor thereby authorising patients to be in possession of such otherwise, controlled drugs.
However, according to Mr Warren, a gap in the Pharmacy Regulations restricts a pharmacy from being able to fill any otherwise doctor prescribed medications, therefore while you may be allowed to have it, patients are denied access because pharmacies cannot supply it.
Acknowledging the global fears and long held prejudices about marijuana derived medicines, Mr Warren said The biggest stumbling blocks globally is economic interests of certain groups who would rather not have this treatment available because it will erode the profits of already available, pharmacological drugs.
Narrowing his focus to just the Cayman Islands, Mr Warren said he believes that the problem is not with the elected officials, but more so with the technocrats, namely the Civil Service. He added that his understanding was that the Chief Officer for the Ministry of Health is delaying the process based on her own objections.
The Chief Officer in the Ministry of Health is Jennifer Ahearn, and The Cayman Reporter attempted to solicit a comment from Ms Ahearn but these attempts were unsuccessful by press time.
Mr Warren acknowledged that not everyone is keen to embrace the proven medicinal benefits from this controlled drug and that is why his proposal was extremely simple. It is so simple it could have been done a long time ago, Mr Warren expressed.
While appreciating the challenges of gaining wide acceptance for cannabis across the board would be difficult, Mr Warren said his proposal sought to narrow the approach by merely seeking to create a new definition for a derivative of the plant called cannabis oil and have that definition placed in both the Misuse of Drugs Law and the relevant Pharmacy Regulations, approving specifically cannabis oil, which would afterwards allow cancer patients access to this potentially life-saving drug.
He also stated that given the narrow parameters of his original proposal, the matter need not be deliberated by the Legislative Assembly, albeit all have pledged their support, but instead could be approved immediately by the Governor-in Cabinet, without delay.
Mr Warren said that ironically, although none of the legally authorised drugs, that are presently prescribed and approved for cancer patients, including his wife, will save his wifes life, the that one drug that might, is presently banned from use.
While attitudes towards cannabis are changing around the world, and specifically in the United States, where a growing number of states have enacted laws to legalise its use for medical purposes, Federal Law still restricts the possession of cannabis accept within approved medical research, and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has not approved cannabis as a treatment for cancer or any other medical condition.