Ensuring continuity of treatment during the COVID-19 pandemic for patients using Cannabis and cannabinoid medicines
In 2019 the WHO Expert Committee on Drug Dependence declared that “preparations of cannabis have shown therapeutic potential for the treatment of pain and other medical conditions such as epilepsy and spasticity associated with multiple sclerosis, which are not always controlled by other medications” as well as providing relief for “anorexia associated with AIDS, nausea […]
In 2019 the WHO Expert Committee on Drug Dependence declared that “preparations of cannabis have shown therapeutic potential for the treatment of pain and other medical conditions such as epilepsy and spasticity associated with multiple sclerosis, which are not always controlled by other medications” as well as providing relief for “anorexia associated with AIDS, nausea and vomiting in cancer chemotherapy, neuropathic pain, chronic cancer pain, Lennox-Gastaut and Dravet syndromes, neonatal hypoxic-ischaemic encephalopathy, perinatal asphyxia, etc”
During this pandemic it is imperative we ensure patients who use Cannabis for the management of their medical conditions continue to fully realize and enjoy their rights, in particular the safe and uninterrupted access to their treatment as is consistent with public health.
In 2009, Manfred Nowak, then Special Rapporteur on torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment, noted that “the de facto denial of access to pain relief, if it causes severe pain and suffering, constitutes cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment”.
During this very trying time the vast majority of jurisdictions with pre-existing programs for access to medical Cannabis have deemed Cannabis dispensaries essential. Informal systems currently in place are used by patients as a safe way of accessing their Cannabis treatment.
It is time to scrutinize and report on the situation of human rights for patients using medicinal Cannabis throughout the world to examine ways and means of overcoming obstacles identify best practices, provide technical assistance and offer concrete recommendations.
In regard to access we recommend: Medical Cannabis dispensaries be deemed essential services, regulations be implemented to allow and encourage online ordering, curbside and home delivery and provide guidance on standard operating procedures in the face of the pandemic (e.g., guidance on handling products, money, credit cards or ID cards, rules for physical distancing, etc.). Traditional medical practitioners and indigenous healers must also be granted recognition as essential services.
In regard to government resources we suggest: Instructions be given to police and law enforcement to consider Cannabis, where prohibited by law, a non-enforcement priority and immediately suspend all related police raids and crackdowns.
In regard to medical practice we propose: Physician consultation via telemedicine be made available and if possible maintain the same team of caregivers. If not then ensure that the new medical team doesn’t discontinue or delay treatment. Expiration dates for existing medical Cannabis documents need to be extended until after the crisis has abated.
Read the letter on the website of the Society of Cannabis Clinicians https://www.cannabisclinicians.org/2020/05/04/open-letter-to-the-united-nations-ensuring-continued-cannabis-access-during-the-covid-19-pandemic
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