During Monday`s debate at the Knesset`s Labor, Welfare and Health Committee on permission to use medical marijuana, Dana Braun, who has muscular dystrophy, lamented that the Health Ministry had reduced her dosage without consulting her or her doctor.
”They played with my health, and my condition deteriorated,” she said, adding that the cannabis treatment allowed her to dance at her wedding. ”The Health Ministry decided that it knows better than my neurologist what`s best for me. I have been exposed to hundreds of people who are in a similar situation. People are facing amputations because they do not have enough cannabis that will allow them to eat.”
The hearing took place against the backdrop of the findings of a study conducted by the Knesset, according to which, over the last six years the number of permits for the use of medical marijuana has increased twelve-fold. Patients who came to the hearing claimed that the drug improved their quality of life and called on the Ministry of Health not to further compromise the doses allowed.
Ben Avishaham, who has Crohn`s disease, told the committee ”it is only because of cannabis that I was able to taste freedom. I enrolled in the university and began doing sports. Former Health Minister Yael German and Dr. Miki Dor from the Health Ministry helped me a lot, but I had to wait six months before [the authorities] agreed to increase my dosage after my situation deteriorated. I have no strength to stand on my feet.”
At this point, Shlomi Sandak, an activist for regulating marijuana, handed Avishaham a rolled up cigarette and said ”This is what the Ministry of Health needs to do.” Members of Knesset who attended the hearing, which was led by committee chairman MK Eli Elalouf (Kulanu), strongly condemned Sandak and called his behavior “insolent provocation.”
Elalouf clarified that he avoided removing Sandak from the hall, due to the sensitivity of the hearing and its content.
Outgoing Director-General of the Health Ministry, Professor Arnon Afek, said the ministry was willing to hold training courses for family physicians, after which they will be certified to recommend medicinal marijuana.” He said some 90% of those who apply to receive medicinal cannabis are eventually given authorization to use it.
MK Yinon Magal (Habayit Hayehudi) said the Health Ministry was ”not doing its job,” while MK Tamar Zandberg (Meretz) said the ministry was ”at a crossroads: will it continue to close its eyes and let the regulation of medical cannabis happen on its own… or will it embark on the right path of regulating cannabis as medication like all other medications.” She said the time has come to resolve the issue in order to ”to many patients.”
Dr. Leonid Eidelman, chairman of the Israel Medical Association, said the efficiency of cannabis has not been proven in studies ”and it entails risks.” Family physicians, he told the committee, ”have much more effective means.”
MK Ilan Gilon (Meretz) asked ”why are doctors allowed to prescribe opiate drugs but not cannabis?”
Committee chairman MK Elalouf said the main issue is ”why can`t a family doctor prescribe cannabis to his patients, and why is it not available in pharmacies?” He said the committee would discuss the matter again in October.