Gibraltar Takes Another Step On The Medical Cannabis Path

Medicinal cannabis in Gibralatar
Image: Makalu

The government of Gibraltar has legalised the wider use of medical cannabis products; but only for use in a limited range of circumstances and conditions.

Gibraltar is tiny a British Overseas Territory located at the southern tip of the Iberian Peninsula. Occupying an area of just 6.7 km2, it is home to a population of around 34,500.

Changes to the Territory’s laws announced this week enable cannabis products specifically approved by the Gibraltar Health Authority (GHA) to be supplied for the treatment/management of either:

  • moderate to severe muscle spasticity in multiple sclerosis (MS) that hasn’t responded to conventional medications.
  • severe refractory epilepsy – a condition where standard medicines aren’t bringing seizures under control
  • “severe and life-altering pain”. Again, only in cases where conventional medicines have failed to control the pain.
  • Intractable nausea and vomiting associated with chemotherapy that hasn’t responded to standard medicines.

Approved cannabis products – all of which will be non-smokable – will only be available from the GHA pharmacy located at St. Bernard’s Hospital, and doctors will need to undergo training before being able to recommend them.

The success or otherwise of the new regulations will be monitored with view to perhaps extending the scope of conditions for which doctors will be able to recommend the use of medicinal cannabis.

It appears those aren’t empty words.

“In my considered view, cannabis oil certainly has its place in the modern medical care of some patients,” said GHA’s Acting Medical Director, Dr Krishna Rawal. “Over time, I am certain that the increased use of cannabis for medical purposes will generate overwhelming evidence in support of its use.”

Prior to this change in law, only one cannabis product was permitted for use in Gibraltar – Sativex, which occurred in 2017.

Medical cannabis is strongly supported by Gibraltar’s citizens. A Gibraltar Broadcasting Corporation survey in 2017 found 85% of those surveyed supported cannabis being made available via the GHA for medicinal purposes.

Over the border in Spain, cannabis is a complex issue. It is illegal to sell it, but it can be cultivated for personal use and used within a private space. This has given rise to dozens of “cannabis clubs”, some of which are primarily recreational; others with a focus on supporting patients using cannabis medicinally.