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Warren:

Cayman Must Grow Own Medical Ganja

Cayman Must Grow Own Medical Ganja
Dennie Warren Jr.

GEORGE TOWN, Grand Cayman (CNS) --  Local activist Dennie Warren Jr has called on government, which legalized the medicinal use of cannabis extracts last year, to take the next step and allow the ganja plant to be grown here.

Warren was central to the campaign to push government into the significant step of changing the Misuse of Drugs Law to allow doctors to prescribe cannabis extracts such as oil and tinctures. But almost a year later, his wife, who is suffering from lung cancer, is still not getting what many believe could be the safest and most effective treatment for the disease due to problems surrounding its import.

Speaking Wednesday evening at a conference about the medicinal properties of the drug and its use, Warren called on government to allow the plant to be grown here. He said this would eliminate the supply chain problems and create an industry in Cayman that could lead to a lucrative export market.

Outlining the challenges he has faced trying to get his wife the treatment that could save her life and the battles he has had with government bureaucrats, he said the law was changed because of broad support from the people in the Cayman Islands when he began his campaign — but it wasn’t easy.

“There were some fierce adversaries,” he said. “One was the chief officer of health, Jennifer Ahearn. I wish that she had taken a different view of the situation.”

He said that the what she had done in objecting to the change in the law had delayed his wife and other sufferers from getting access to the cannabis oil. “Delay causes death,” he said.

Speaking to CNS, Warren explained that medicinal cannabis oil has been identified in Jamaica but it has taken many months to get the necessary import permit. The final hurdle is the export permit from Jamaica, but he said he believes the issue is on track and the oil could be here in a matter of weeks.

Warren wants the public to think about the next step and “actually grow it here” because he has found that a lot of control over what can be purchased is lost via importation, as patients and doctors are dependent on the laws and regulations in other jurisdictions. There is also a loss of control over the quality of the product, he said.

By growing it locally, Cayman could control the quality and supply, he said, and then being an exporter instead of an importer would bring broader economic benefit to the country.

In a moving presentation about his experiences after his wife was diagnosed, Warren pointed to the wide support in the country and credited the people, and not his own tenacity, as the main reason for government taking what he said was a brave step. Cayman remains one of only a small number of countries that has legalised the medical use of cannabis, despite the massive change in attitudes about the plant and the shift in attitude within the medical community towards the incredible potential of the ganja plant to treat and even cure a wide range of conditions.

The first ever Cannabis Conference here, which was organised by Prentice Panton, attracted almost 300 people to the Lions Centre. The audience was a diverse mix of young and old, doctors, healthcare practitioners and pharmacists. Local health insurer Generali, one of the sponsors, sent a representative to hint that the company might be willing to cover the treatment, depending on how the law develops in the field of medical marijuana.

Doctors Dustin Sulak and Ethan Russo gave fascinating and engaging presentations on the history and prohibition of the drug, as well as the interference of politicians that led to it being banned at a time when a body of research was being built up to document its medical properties and uses. They also explained the science of cannabis, detailing how and why it works and what is leading an increasing number of doctors to prescribe the drug where it is available, and why a growing number of countries are changing laws.

Dr Russo said that over the last two years, he has visited six continents to talk about the drug and its future potential and the need for legalisation.