In a move to capitalize on a global market projected to exceed USD 60 billion by 2024, Cyprus has joined a growing number of European nations in legally permitting the cultivation and provision of medical cannabis.
The Republic will grant two 15-year licenses to private medical cannabis cultivators to grow and process the plant before distributing it to pharmacies. The two licensees stand to make a massive turnover; it has been estimated that the state revenues alone from taxing these operations will amount to around EUR 45 million every five months. Prior to the implementation of GeSY ( the countries universal health insurance system), the product will only be available from state pharmacies, but once the new healthcare system is in place, private pharmacies can also get involved. It is hoped that this new investment will have a symbiotic effect on the Cypriot pharmaceutical sector; helping boost homegrown R&D on the island.
Giorgos Pamborides, minister of health from July 2015 until February 2018, was suitably ambitious on the nation’s prospects in this emergent niche upon the announcement of these two licenses. He stated, “I believe that Cyprus can be a pioneer in the region due to the favourable weather conditions” required to cultivate medical cannabis. Current MoH Constantinos Ioannou is similarly ebullient on the potential for the medical cannabis industry on the island, noting that, “we are in the process of regulating the cultivation, production and export of medical cannabis, to, inter alia, attract medical tourism and foreign investments, thus creating beneficial conditions for businesses and development.”
Not all stakeholders are quite as overjoyed with the news. Giorgos Georgiou, a member of parliament from Akel, the main left-wing opposition party, raised concerns that the production and distribution of medical cannabis in Cyprus was an attempt to import drugs through the back door and would promote the interests of large companies on the back of patients. Some pressure groups have also criticized the legislation for not going far enough. The bill specifies that doctors may prescribe medical cannabis to patients suffering from specific ailments “only where no alternative treatment exists or, if an alternative treatment does exist, it has been tried without results,” in effect only prescribing medical cannabis as a ‘last resort’ and strictly for palliative care – ignoring the plant’s multiple documented health benefits.
The bill is currently in the process of being reviewed in parliament. With a mountain of regulation needed to ensure the process of cultivating and distributing the cannabis is properly controlled and not corrupted, it seems that it could be some time before the law is enacted.