Israel will move to allow pharmacies to dispense medical marijuana

Deputy Health Minister Yaakov Litzman

In a major policy shift, Israel will move to allow pharmacies to dispense medical marijuana. The policy change is to alleviate over-crowded dispensaries.

“And God said: ‘Let the earth put forth grass, herb yielding seed, and fruit-tree bearing fruit after its kind, wherein is the seed thereof, upon the earth.’ And it was so.” (Genesis 1:11)

Israel is making a big move in medical marijuana, with Deputy Health Minister Yaakov Litzman announcing it will be made available in pharmacies. Rabbi Litzman, who serves as de facto health minister for the country, made the announcement at a Knesset Committee on Drug and Alcohol Abuse meeting Monday.

Israel is on the cutting edge of medical marijuana research, developing the world’s first metered-dose dispenser, as well as highly specialized strains of the plant. The country also has the highest per-capita rate of licensed medical users. Currently, however, while eight companies are authorized to grow it, only two bodies can legally dispense cannabis. Litzman aims to see that change.

“I am aware of the need to change the Health Ministry’s existing policy on the matter,” Litzman told the Knesset committee. “Medical marijuana will be sold by pharmacies under an arrangement process, contingent on a prescription written only by a senior physician who has been trained for this specific purpose by the Health Ministry.”

“Today there are pharmacies that dispense all kinds of other drugs like morphine, so since that has been organized, this can be organized as well.”

Litzman added that he would like to issue a tender to double the number of growers in the country, a move being fought by current licensees on technical grounds. The matter is currently before the High Court of Justice.

Litzman, 66, is the head of the ultra-Orthodox United Torah Judaism list. He admitted to having no personal experience with marijuana.

“The first time I saw marijuana was last week. I had never seen it before, and never touched it,” he said. However, he made the decision in response to enormous pressure on the few legal dispensaries and the challenges faced by the 21,000 patients legally permitted to use the substance.

“Under instructions of the High Court of Justice, I am taking action on the matter, after having made sure not to engage in it myself in the past.”

Litzman received resounding support for the upcoming change. Committee chairwoman Tamar Zandberg (Meretz) welcomed the news.


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Medical cannabis trial: First details revealed

Dan Haslam


Thirty terminally ill people being cared for by Newcastle's Calvary Mater Hospital will take part in a new trial of medical cannabis, the government announced on Monday.

University of NSW researchers will work with the hospital patients to examine what effects vapourised cannabis leaves and a form of pharmaceutical cannabis medication will have on people who are dying of cancer and suffering symptoms including fatigue, nausea and insomnia.

Premier Mike Baird and Minister for Medical Research Pru Goward announced on Monday that the trial would be undertaken by palliative care specialist Meera Agar, who is also a conjoint associate professor at the University of NSW.

Associate Professor Agar said the trial was exciting because it would first of all examine whether vapourising cannabis leaf would allow the beneficial effects of cannabis on appetite to be very quickly felt by the body, but without some of the toxic side-effects of inhaling smoke.

"This is a question that is very important to the people that are providing clinical care, because consumers have said it is the clinical issue that really distresses them," she said. "It's such an important area of care for people with cancer - food is a social event, it's not just a clinical issue, so it's a much more far-reaching problem than the other clinical issues we deal with on a day-to-day basis".

Three trials, costing $9 million all up, were announced in December last year by Premier Mike Baird after the tireless campaigning of Dan Haslam, who died in February from bowel cancer, and his family, along with other people with medical conditions that could benefit from access to the drug.

Fairfax Media reported last month that a private donation to Sydney University of more than $30 million will allow further research into the medical applications of cannabis.

As well as the Newcastle trial for people with terminal cancer, the effects of the drug will be examined in children with severe, drug-resistant epilepsy and adults with nausea from chemotherapy.

Mr Baird said the trials would position NSW as a world-leader in research into cannabis and terminal illness as well as help alleviate suffering.

"We do not want patients or carers having to play pharmacist - that is why it is so important to explore the safest and most effective ways we can deliver compassionate care and improve the quality of life," he said.

Associate Professor Agar said her trial would comprise two parts. First, the group of 30 patients would be treated using the vapourised leaf to measure the effect on their symptoms.

Then the team would test between 250 and 300 people in a bigger trial that would also use a pharmaceutical cannabis medication in tablet or liquid form

It would also assess whether patients put off by the idea of using cannabis found it more acceptable.

"It wouldn't be every patient [who enquires about cannabis], but it is very common, especially for symptoms for which there aren't other treatments that are very efficacious," she said.

"But equally, there is a group of patients that will be very hesitant ... especially elderly people who might be just as troubled by appetite problems but might be less willing to give it a go".

"If it does actually work we want it to be accessible to everyone".

The cannabis drug could be developed by an existing medical cannabis drug manufacturer, based on the results of the first stage of the study, or the team might develop the product themselves, she said.

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Reference:Fairfax media

Senators give medical marijuana the green light

Richard Di Natale


Obstacles: Richard Di Natale spearheaded the push for legalising medical marijuana.

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Senators from across the political divide will endorse a bill to legalise medical marijuana despite warnings it could create a regulatory nightmare.

Fairfax Media can reveal that a committee made up of Coalition, Labor and crossbench senators will strongly recommend that Parliament pass a cross-party bill to set up a medical marijuana regulator.

Spearheaded by Greens Leader Richard Di Natale​, the Regulator of Medicinal Cannabis Bill would effectively make the federal government responsible for overseeing the production, distribution and use of the drug.

The bill was introduced into Parliament last November and sent to a committee in February. After conducting public hearings around the country and attracting almost 200 public submissions, the committee is due to deliver its report on August 10.

Sources say the committee will back the bill despite strong concerns from the Health Department.

In its submission to the committee, the department said the bill would set up a new regulatory system that would create "complexity and uncertainty" and potentially clash with the Therapeutic Goods Act.

Department secretary Martin Bowles warned the bill left important legal and practical issues unidentified or unresolved, "leading to the risk of regulatory gap, overlapping laws and a lack of clarity about the exercise of jurisdiction by agencies and possible inconsistency with other existing laws".

The department also warns the bill could contravene some of Australia's international obligations under the Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs.

But sources say the department is just "flexing its muscles" because it doesn't like the idea of an independent regulator it cannot control.

Senator Di Natale last month conceded there were obstacles to the bill but insisted none of them were insurmountable. He pointed out other countries had managed to legalise medical marijuana without falling foul of the single convention, and said Australia could do the same.

The regulator is necessary because the Therapeutic Goods Administration was set up to process pharmaceutical products and is not equipped to deal with approvals of herbal medicines, he says.

A recent survey by Palliative Care Australia found more than two-thirds of Australians now back the use of medical marijuana. Just 9 per cent of people oppose it.

Prime Minister Tony Abbott last year threw his support behind the legalisation of the drug.

"I have no problem with the medical use of cannabis just as I have no problem with the medical use of opiates," he said.

reference:Sydney Morning Herald

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