Miriam Dalli calls for uniform European stand on medical cannabis

'Uneven European landscape for medical cannabis is like telling a diabetes patient he can’t use an insulin pen because it is illegal in the country he is visiting'

MEP Miriam Dalli
MEP Miriam Dalli

The uneven European landscape on how medical cannabis is regulated not only impacts investors but leaves patients in “unthinkable” situations, Miriam Dalli said The Labour MEP made the case for an EU-wide regulatory framework to allow patients easy access to medical cannabis as a treatment option.

“The current uneven European landscape… is resulting in the ambiguous reality that a patient in one country can rely on a medicinal product but, if on holiday in another EU country, he won’t be allowed to use it as it is illegal in that fellow member state. It’s like telling a person who suffers from diabetes, ‘sorry, but you’re not allowed to use an insulin pen here’. It’s unthinkable,” Dalli said.

She was speaking on Tuesday at the medical cannabis forum that opened in Valletta. The forum brings together industry leaders, policy makers and advocacy groups.

Dalli noted that while the World Health Organisation had officially recommended that the cannabis compound cannabidiol (CBD) should not be classified as a controlled substance, the European Commission, stated that food supplements containing CBD were to be defined as novel foods.

This classification by the Commission means that many CBD products now have to be registered in a costly, time-consuming and cumbersome process.

The Commission regulations are being challenged by some associations.

Dalli said she is a firm believer in simplifying matters and not complicating access to medicinal products that can have therapeutic effect for patients.

She said Malta should take the lead in addressing concerns of people who fail to distinguish between medical cannabis and the use of cannabis for recreational purposes.

“This can be addressed by setting up a medical cannabis education and research entity, which focuses on advocacy, education and research. I consider these to be the three main pillars that can help change things,” Dalli said.

She added that investing in research and science will help engage professionals, eliminate hesitation and instill trust both in medical professionals and patients alike.

“It would be our opportunity to understand the benefits but also the side effects or complications that may arise if it results that medical cannabis might not be the best drug for certain conditions,” she said.

People need to access medical cannabis quicker, especially palliative care patients or those undergoing chemotherapy, she added.
“For these people, medical cannabis is a valid treatment option. Patients who need medical cannabis need easy access to their medicine.

Processes that create a lot of obstacles and hurdles will not help patients and will let the black market fester. It’s not what we want,” Dalli said.

Turning to governments, the Labour MEP said they still needed to understand that medical cannabis can actually help them save money.

“In cases such as treatment-resistant epilepsy for example, medical cannabis can keep patients out of hospital and alleviate their suffering and help them live a healthier life. Less treatment in hospitals mean less pressure on our public health systems,” she said.

Malta has been at the forefront within the EU to legalise medical cannabis for patients and allow its production in the country. Several companies have already obtained a licence to open shop in Malta.