People in the Isle of Man could be allowed to buy medicinal cannabis over-the-counter at their local pharmacy, according to one idea put forward in a public consultation.
Another option would be to allow GPs to prescribe it for a range of conditions.
The government said a separate consultation on the decriminalisation of cannabis would be launched later.
Home Affairs Minister Bill Malarkey MHK said the issues were “deliberately” being consulted on separately, so that those in favour of legalising cannabis for recreational use did not “distort the figures within the medical side”.
A relaxation of the law in England, Wales and Scotland in November last year, which allows consultants to prescribe the drug for a limited number of conditions, also applies in the Isle of Man.
Children with severe forms of epilepsy, adult cancer patients suffering from nausea and vomiting as a result of chemotherapy, and adults with muscle stiffness caused by multiple sclerosis are currently eligible to be prescribed medicinal cannabis.
People are being asked to give their views on:
- Remaining in line with UK laws on medicinal cannabis
- Extending the conditions the drug is prescribed for to include chronic pain and palliative care
- Giving GPs the power to prescribe the drug for any medical condition
- Giving pharmacies the power to sell the drug over-the-counter without prescription
- Allowing the cultivation and manufacturing of medicinal cannabis in the island
Health Minister David Ashford MHK said there that while there was a “lack of robust clinical evidence to support cannabis for medicinal use”, there had been “mixed” anecdotal evidence from those who had used it.
Mr Ashford said there had been a “wide range of debate for a long number of years” over the issue, and now was the “perfect time” to seek the public’s views.
Dr Alex Allinson MHK said politicians should be “pragmatic” about the use of cannabis for medicinal reasons.
“As a doctor I’ve met increasing numbers of people from all ages, and from all classes, who are using medicinalcannabis because they find it helps far better than conventional medicines, but are living in fear of being arrested and criminalised for that use,” he said.
The Department of Health and Social Care has also launched a separate consultation on the growing of industrial hemp, which can be used as a fibre or as a foodstuff.
Both medicinal cannabis and industrial hemp have lower levels of the psychoactive chemical THC than street cannabis.
The consultations are available online and run until 20 March.