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Limit on imported medical cannabis increased

Medical cannabis (File photograph)

The threshold for the importation of medical cannabis has rocketed to 2,000 grams a year from an annual limit of just one gram per year.A spokeswoman for the health ministry said the Government was “processing an application for a commercial importer” in the wake of the increased quota.The move came after Kathy Lynn Simmons, the Attorney-General, announced that the Government planned to introduce legislation in May to regulate medical and recreational cannabis.She added that, in the interim, “individual patients can apply to import their own medicinal cannabis”.Kyjuan Brown, the medical director at Northshore Medical and Aesthetics Centre, earlier asked the Government to change its regulated quota to enable his patients to get treatment with medical cannabis.A Supreme Court ruling in November 2016 opened the way for patients on the island to make a personal application for the importation and use of medical cannabis.Permits have since been approved, but Bermuda’s strict importation limit stopped the drug’s importation.Dr Brown said last month that the Government’s stance on cannabis “ignores the importation limit set by the International Narcotics Control Board”.He said: “I need to know when it is going to be increased so that I can go back to the Attorney-General and get my patient a permit.”Dr Brown added: “We need her medication and we need it now. Canada could FedEx it to us in a day or two.”The INCB is a United Nations agency, to which the Government can apply to raise its import limit.David Burt, the Premier, admitted at a Progressive Labour Party delegates’ conference two years ago that the one-gram limit meant that “those who need it cannot get it legally”.But he said the Government would prefer to have medical cannabis cultivated on the island rather than import it.Dr Brown said the new limit was “not enough — but it’s a start”.Dr Brown highlighted one of his patients, a stroke victim forced to buy illegal cannabis because it was impossible to import it under the one-gram rule.The woman, who suffered a stroke two years ago and is unable to work, said she used the drug to relieve symptoms that ranged from stutters to severe anxiety.The woman, who asked not to be identified, also uses the drug for “stabbing pain” from fibromyalgia, a nerve disorder worsened by her stroke.“People don’t understand the struggle,” she said.“When I smoke marijuana, it makes the blunt knife pain feel like a small buzzing shock that I can handle. And when you’re in pain, you do not want to eat.”She predicted the drug would be standardised and “probably cheaper” if medical-grade cannabis was imported.The woman, who is in her late forties, said her stroke hit after she came home from shopping “feeling off, and I passed out on the couch”.She realised she was unable to talk when her dog woke her hours later. The woman was treated at the King Edward VII Memorial Hospital where doctors also found she had a congenital heart defect that had contributed to her stroke.The woman, who also has bipolar disorder, said her “anxiety got really heightened” after the stroke, although she was prescribed Valium, a tranquilliser.She added: “I was suffering inside and could not communicate. I lost my appetite, my speech, my feeling of being in control. I felt helpless.”She obtained some relief from CBD oil, a cannabis component without the strong drug effect of THC, but said cannabis was more effective.She said: “I’ve met people since I have been off work who had cancer, sickle cell, even just anxiety. “There’s a lot of people suffering. I have seen it first-hand. I have even given up from my own supply so they won’t suffer.”The increased quota for the drug was announced this month by the Ministry of Health.