Fears medicinal cannabis is being sold on black market

CONCERNS that medicinal cannabis is ending up on the black market are being addressed by authorities.

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Since Health & Social Services changed the law to allow prescriptions to be given by off-island clinics a growing number of licences have been issued, while there are also worries about the increasing strength of doses.

Those seeking medicinal cannabis can find unofficial guidance on a local Facebook group on the types of questions that will be asked and how to answer to increase their chances of being successful.

Some professionals have raised fears about the current process instigated by the committee as it moved to make medicinal cannabis available, particularly as the UK clinics are not fully aware of the illegal drug market in Guernsey and how it differs from elsewhere.

HSC said that law enforcement had not taken any action yet in relation to medicinal cannabis being sold on: ‘As is normal practice following the introduction of legislative changes, the practical experiences have been kept under active review by Health & Social Care with the support of its officers and clinicians and this has, and will be, informed by the observations of Law Enforcement, Primary Care and other interested parties,’ said a HSC spokeswoman.

‘It is recognised that some have expressed concerns in respect of the number of licences issued, the processes followed, and the risk of diversion.

‘These have been carefully considered and more work is ongoing but no immediate changes are planned.’

One option being pursued is the establishment of a dedicated on-island clinic which could be by government, a private entity or a partnership.

‘The committee is aware that there is some commercial interest in progressing a private clinic.’

The spokeswoman said that there is sadly a risk of diversion for any prescribed drug including medical cannabis, opioids, benzodiazepines and the like.

‘Diversion of medical cannabis, is, of course, a serious matter and is rightly a criminal offence and it is therefore a matter for Law Enforcement to pursue as appropriate.’

Nine UK clinics have prescribed these products for Guernsey patients so far and discussions have been held with several clinics ‘to ensure they are aware of the local illegal drug market’.

The law was changed in September 2020 to allow cannabis-based medicinal products to be imported when prescribed by registered UK practitioners. This overcame an issue with the original change to allow medicinal cannabis to be prescribed when it became apparent that no-one locally was qualified or willing to do so.

Up to the end of February, 443 applications had been received from 217 different people. An application needs to be made for each individual prescription.

‘As would be expected following a legislative change, there has been an upward trend in the number of licence applications received.’

There have been concerns about patients being prescribed progressively stronger doses as they continue to use medicinal cannabis. Prescriptions are generally for one month.

‘It is normal clinical practice for prescribing doctors to adjust the dose of a medication so to maximise the therapeutic benefit. This happens with many medications,’ the HSC spokeswoman said.

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