Lawmakers in the Cayman Islands amended their drugs law to allow for the medicinal use of cannabis oil.
Cayman Island Governor Helen Kilpatrick approved a bill that amends the Misuse of Drugs Bill 2016, allowing cannabis oil to be imported and sold for medicinal purposes. Lawmakers had unanimously approved the amendment in October during the last session of the Legislative Assembly.
“The use of cannabis extracts and tinctures of cannabis for medical or therapeutic purposes, where prescribed by a medical doctor licensed in accordance with the Health Practice Law as part of a course of treatment for a person under that medical doctor’s care, is lawful,” the final version of the law reads.
The new law allows Cayman pharmacists and doctors to prescribe cannabis oil for patients, provided they are able to locate a source that imports the substance. There is concern over where the cannabis oil will be sourced, considering no one in the Cayman Islands currently manufacturers the oil and federal prohibitions on the international transport of cannabis may make importing from the United States difficult.
“But we do not want people to continue to suffer,” Premier Alden McLaughlin, who is also the minister of health, told the Cayman Compass. “We believe we must do what we can.”
While importing challenges remain, many Cayman patients consider the passing of the law a positive step forward. It is now lawful for cannabis oil to be used specifically to treat cancer, epilepsy, pain related to osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis, as well as other conditions.
The amendment to the law came about after Cayman photographer Dennie Warren Jr. had inquired with the government last year about the possible therapeutic properties of cannabis oil. His wife had been diagnosed with stage 4 lung cancer and chemotherapy and radiation treatments had proven ineffective. At one point, Warren presented to the Progressives government caucus on cannabis oil’s effects on cancer.
Early studies indicate that the cannabinoids found in cannabis contain anti-cancer properties. The compound tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) has proven beneficial for reducing the pain and nausea associated with cancer treatments, while cannabidiol (CBD) has shown to inhibit the progression of cancers located in several areas, including the lung.
“I would like to thank all the members for their support of the bill,” Warren told Cayman Compass. “It is my view that the members of the House do not yet fully comprehend the significance and the importance of today’s decision to move this legislation forward.
“Science, I believe, will one day give cannabis the credit it deserves in a number of areas. It feels good to know that the Legislative Assembly of the Cayman Islands had the courage to be in the forefront of this very important development.”
“[Mr. Warren] felt this option would give his wife some hope,” McLaughlin said.
The regulations governing customs and pharmaceuticals had already been changed in anticipation of the new law being approved. However, the amendment doesn’t establish regulations regarding the importation, storage, and dispensing of the cannabis oil. Those decisions will be left up to Cabinet. Smokable cannabis products and cultivating cannabis remain prohibited under the new law.
With the new law, the Cayman Islands becomes the first Caribbean nation to have a medical cannabis program. Learn more about cannabis laws throughout the world by visiting our education page.