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Deyalsingh not endorsing it
Health Minister Terrence Deyalsingh yesterday made it clear he was in no position to endorse the use of medicinal marijuana to treat patients suffering from diseases and illnesses.
Deyalsingh made the comment in response to suggestions on Tuesday by Independent Senator Dhanayshar Mahabir that Government should allow patients to use of medicinal marijuana as a means of earning revenue in the drive to help to diversify the economy.
Speaking in the Senate, Mahabir said T&T had the potential to rake in billions of dollars from the sale of medicinal marijuana, as he drew reference to five Canadian-based licensed producers of medical cannabis that had collected $15 billion Canadian in annual sales. He argued that when the National Oncology Centre, which is being built to treat cancer patients, opens, he hopes cannabis-based medication can be used and as a mature society we should not compromise the health status of the population.
But when Deyalsingh was asked to share his thoughts on Mahabir’s views at a national symposium on strengthening primary health care at the Hilton Trinidad, Portof- Spain, yesterday, he uncomfortably divorced himself from the matter.
However, he said anyone can go to the Drug Advisory Committee (DAC), which is headed by the Chief Medical Officer, to make an application to register any drug.
The DAC, Deyalsingh said, would then review the merits and demerits of an application between six months to a year.
“So any drug can be screened within a six or twelve-month period,” Deyalsingh said.
Deyalsingh said the ministry can’t influence what category of drugs companies would need, “so anyone can make an application towards the DAC for any drug that is a legal drug that has been approved by agencies by the European Medicine Agency or the Food and Drug Division.”
He said once the drugs are considered safe, it can be approved under the DAC.
Told that Mahabir had pointed out that if people attempted to sell medicinal marijuana drugs in T&T people they would make a jail, Deyalsingh said that was where the conversation needed to be clarified.
“Medical marijuana is a different thing. What you are doing there… you are isolating one compound, so anybody can make an application to DAC and they take it from there.”
Asked if there are local agents selling marijuana-based drugs in T&T, Deyalsingh said he was unaware of that.
While patients with diseases and illnesses needed to be treated, Deyalsingh, when pressed on if he would endorse alternative treatment drugs to help such individuals, said he could not.
“I can’t endorse alternative treatments that have not gone through a rigorous screening process by the Drug Advisory Committee.
I don’t make policy on the fly because I have microphones and cameras in my face.”
Meanwhile, speaking on the issue in the Senate late Tuesday, Agriculture Minister Clarence Rambharat said there is a provision in the Dangerous Drugs act where “certain things” can be done concerning marijuana and its health uses and this could be built upon if the “population is so minded”.
Rambharat was responding following earlier calls by Independent Senator Dr Dhanayshar Mahabir on medicinal marijuana during debate on the mid-year budget review.
Rambharat said, “There is a provision in the Dangerous Drugs Act where we could do certain things in relation to marijuana and its health uses and we could build on that if the public is so minded and eventually we’ll come to the day when we’ll have to confront more widespread use of marijuana for medicinal purposes —I don’t think we as a Government have gotten to that point yet.”
—With reporting by Gail Alexander
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