The number of physicians allowed to prescribe medical marijuana will be raised from nine to 20 by the end of this year, Likud MK Haim Katz, who chairs the Knesset Labor, Social Welfare and Health Committee said on Monday. In a raucous session, Katz said that a subcomittee will be formed to discuss intensively, demands by patients groups to get medical cannabis more easily to relieve their pain and other side effects of serious illness.
Cannabis is used by sufferers of chronic ailments, including cancer, multiple sclerosis and post-traumatic stress disorder, to combat pain, insomnia, lack of appetite and other symptoms.
The Health Ministry will receive recommendations from the subcommittee, while the ministry will provide the subcomittee with and ongoing reports to ensure that “all patients who need it will get it. If there is a need, we will solve the problem through legislation. We want those who deserve it to get it, while those who are not entitled not to get it.”
There is concern among the law enforcement authorities that less-rigorous control of medical marijuana could lead to illegal supplies flooding the general market and being obtained for non-palliative use.
Health Minister Yael German and her director-general Prof. Ronni Gamzu said that the current 11,000 patients who get medical cannabis will continue to get it according to existing regulations and procedures, even if their illness is not included in new categories that the ministry has announced. New patients who have medical conditions not listed as eligible will have to apply as exceptional cases, and their requests will be considered.
The ministry officials said that this was a temporary procedure until the use of medical cannabis is arranged officially.
MKs Tamar Zandberg and Moshe Feiglin (who has a relative who needs medical marijuana) said medical specialists treating patients with difficult conditions should be able to decide whether they need cannabis. “Have you fallen on your heads. It’s important. It’s vital, and you’re taking it from patients. I don’t know if it’s lack of sensitivity or evil or other interests?” said the Likud Beytenu MK.
MK Miki Rosenthal (Labor) identified himself as having a condition that has required him through most of his life to get narcotic drugs for pain. “Because of a small group of people who used it even through they are not eligible, we have all become suspect in the eyes of the Health Ministry. It’s terrible!”
Zvi Hendel, chairman of the Israel Anti-Drug Authority, said he didn’t want Israel to be the first per-capital country in medical cannabis use. Many countries have made it legal, but most of these changed their minds,” he continued.
TV personality Avri Gilad said that his father, who suffered from Alzheimer’s disease, screamed day and night and relived the arrival of the Nazi Gestapo at his home. Then I met Alzheimer’s patients who smiled. There is arrogance by the state that comes and takes from patients’ mouths the medication that helps them.”