Tuesday 17 September, 2019

President rejects meeting with medical cannabis advocate

Photo: Getty Images

Photo: Getty Images

Cannabis advocate and founder of the Caribbean Collective for Justice (CCJ), Nazma Muller, said she is disappointed by President Paula-Mae Weekes’ rejection of an offer to meet on the issue of medical cannabis.

Speaking to LoopTT, Muller shared a copy of the letter from the Office of the President, dated August 7, 2019, which said that President Weekes could not receive Muller because of the limits of her office.

Her Excellency commends you for your commitment to the furtherance of social and environmental justice. However, with regard to your request, the constitutional arrangements for the Presidency…do not allow for the President to become involved in, or express any view, on matter such as these which fall directly under the aegis of the Executive/Parliament,” the letter said.

Muller said however that she thought President Weekes would have been moved as this is a humanitarian issue.

“I’m disappointed. I was hoping that she would at least meet with us, or even with the (Trinidad and Tobago) Cancer Society, because in my mind this is a humanitarian issue,” she said.

Muller said that cannabis oil is already being distributed locally and that terminally ill cancer patients are risking being jailed for taking it, in order to ease their pain.

“There are so many people suffering from medical conditions. Some people (with cancer) have only weeks left to live and the quality of their lives is terrible, some of them are not sleeping or eating. They are suffering tremendously.”

“The people I’m representing are at stage 3 or stage 4 cancer, they cannot wait. The people who make this oil are risking incarceration.”

“She said constitutionally she’s not allowed to intervene but I find that we are very legalistic about the wrong thing. I think the goal of the system is supposed to make people’s lives better,” she said.

Request to meet with Health Minister

Muller said that she has also formally requested a meeting with Health Minister Terrence Deyalsingh along with a young man suffering from cancer of the spine, to discuss whether a special license could be obtained in order for him to receive medical cannabis treatments.

“Even the Ministry of Health admitted that there is an avenue in the law (for the issuing of special licenses for the importation of cannabis),” she said.

She said that although Attorney General Faris Al-Rawi promised the matter would be brought before Parliament when it reconvenes in September, she said the special licenses should be issued before the legislation is finalised because people are suffering now.

“This is a question of humanity. Even if the legislation is to be brought before Parliament by September, we don’t know how long it will take for this licensing process to roll out. In Jamaica it took three years."

“Meanwhile, people are dying,” she said.

She said that the meeting would have been good for the betterment of the lives of citizens. 

“You cannot allow legalese to prevent you from helping a situation involving critical conditions.”

“These are the things I was trying to educate the President about because this is a burning, serious issue that has taken over the world, the research is mind-blowing. I don’t think that after these consultations, there can be any doubt as to how this can help those who are ill.”

 “We are looking at a process and we are talking about people’s lives. It would have really been something good for democracy, for her to use her powers for the betterment of people’s lives,” she said.

She added that perhaps President Weekes should re-assess her role in society.

“I want her to think about what is her role, what is her purpose in this country. Please, tell us, what can you do when there’s no one else to help the vulnerable?”

Raphael Mechoulam, the first person to identify the main psychoactive constituent in cannabis, THC, launched a cannabis-based study to treat with several aggressive types of cancer, according to The Algemeiner.

The study will involve molecules found effective in fighting melanoma (skin cancer), neuroblastoma (nerve cancer), and Glioblastoma (brain cancer).

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