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Views of public sought on medicinal cannabis and industrial hemp

Wednesday, 6 February 2019

Members of the public are invited to give their views on whether Isle of Man laws regarding the use of cannabis products for medicinal purposes and the growing of hemp for industrial use, should change. Two consultations will be launched this week and run in parallel over six weeks.

Medicinal use of cannabis in limited circumstances has been allowed in the Island since November 2018, when Manx law followed a change in UK legislation. The consultation will pose the question, should the Island continue to follow the UK in this area, or take a different approach?

The topic of decriminalising the recreational use of cannabis will be considered at a later date.

Currently, the use of cannabis-based medicinal products is restricted to patients in three closely defined categories and can only be prescribed by a medical consultant.

The consultation will ask whether access to medicinal cannabis should be widened. Those taking part will be asked to read a paper explaining the nature of medicinal cannabis and how it may be used to relieve the symptoms of certain medical conditions. It sets out evidence for the safety and effectiveness of medicinal cannabis and its use in other countries.   

Four options are tabled in the consultation: no change to the status quo; allowing medicinal cannabis use for a wider range of conditions than at present; leaving patients and doctors to decide how and when to use it; and removing the need for medicinal cannabis to be prescribed by a doctor.

The consultation on industrial hemp will ask for views on whether the law should change to allow the growing of hemp for commercial use, under a licence system.

In the Isle of Man, it is currently illegal under the Misuse of Drugs Act 1976 to cultivate the plant, which is a variety of Cannabis sativa. Hemp is grown in more than 30 countries for the production of fibre, usually under a system based on granting licenses or permits to growers. Hemp fibre is used in the production of textiles, clothes, paper, animal bedding, insulation and building materials and biodegradable plastics, while hemp seeds can be pressed to produce oil.

It’s thought industrial hemp as a commercial crop could support sustainable farming and open up economic opportunities for the Island; the consultation will ask whether the public sees this as acceptable. A short paper describes how the industry is regulated elsewhere, and how production is controlled to ensure parts of the crop can’t be diverted for use as recreational cannabis.

Minister for Health and Social Care David Ashford said:

‘We’ve had a very careful look at both medicinal cannabis and industrial hemp and want to test public opinion on whether our current approach should change. I would encourage people to look at the evidence and the experience of other countries before giving their answers to the questions. In both consultations, respondents will have an opportunity to mention anything else they’d like us to take into account. 

‘We’re also targeting groups of health professionals, GPs, hospital doctors and pharmacists, as we want to hear their views on potential changes to the way medicinal cannabis is prescribed and dispensed. This is uncharted territory for the Island and we expect a wide range of views. It’s a genuine opportunity for members of the community to influence future policy in this area.’ 

The consultations will be launched at midday on Wednesday 6 February 2019 in the Barool Suite, Legislative Buildings, Finch Road, Douglas.   

They can be accessed online and paper copies will be available at libraries, local authority offices and post offices around the Island from next week.

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