Doctors in Rwanda can now prescribe medicinal cannabis to patients

July 2021 Business insider ; On Monday, June 28, the Government of Rwanda recognised that cannabis has medicinal value and should be available on prescription. This new step brings the East African nation in line with African countries like Lesotho, Morocco, Uganda and Zimbabwe, where the use of cannabis medicinally is already legal.

“Medical marijuana is very important in pharmaceutical advancement. However, this should be put in the right hands of experts in this field to avoid any chances of misuse,” says Geoffrey Beingana, a pharmacist and global health specialist.

Through a new Ministerial Order signed by the Minister of Health Daniel Ngamije and the Minister of Justice Johnston Busingye, Rwanda outlined a framework for the growing, processing and medical use of cannabis. This new law will not limit the types of conditions that can be considered for treatment. Furthermore, only specialist doctors accredited by the Ministry of Health, in writing, will be allowed to prescribe cannabis and cannabis products for use by a patient.

“Medical use of cannabis and cannabis products can only be made on the condition that a specialist medical doctor prescribes them,” says Article 14 of the ministerial order.

“The eligible person for the activities provided for by this order is an investor or any other person who is committed to perform any activity of cultivation, processing, importation, export and use of cannabis and cannabis products, for medical or research purposes,” the order reads in part.

So what does this mean? How will this affect doctors, and how exactly will the process work?

A cannabis-based product can only be ordered for medicinal use in humans if the product is a special medicinal product that is for use in accordance with a prescription or direction of a specialist medical practitioner. For this purpose, the order specifies that a specialised medical doctor is one whom the Ministry of Health has given, in writing, the authority to prescribe cannabis and cannabis products for use by a patient.

When prescribing cannabis-related medication, doctors must give patients sufficient information on the medicines proposed, allowing them to make an informed decision.

Before prescribing cannabis-related medication, doctors must be confident that the prescription is medically necessary based upon an assessment of an individual patient’s need.

Doctors will be expected to only prescribe cannabis-related medication within their areas of practice, and it should remain in the hands of experts to avoid any chances of misuse.

The Ministerial Order lists eight available licences and activities allowed under each licence, which will be valid for five years.

According to the Ministerial Order governing cannabis and its products in Rwanda, individuals and firms interested in any of the processes relating to cultivation, distribution and use of cannabis will be required to apply and receive prerequisite licensing by competent authorities. They must only undertake operations at places of business of those establishments or at such other places as may be approved by the competent authority.

Types of licenses and certification include; cultivation license; import permit for seeds, genetic materials and other planting material; export permit for seeds, genetic materials and other planting materials.

Other licenses and permits include; cannabis and cannabis products processing license; cannabis and cannabis products import permit; cannabis and cannabis product export permit.

Other certifications and permits are finished cannabis and cannabis products registration certificate and research license.

The new order does not have provisions for cultivation, processing or use of cannabis for recreational purposes in the country.

Persons found to use, cultivate or sell marijuana outside the set order will be considered to be handling narcotics which is punishable by law.

It may take more than a year for Rwanda’s Ministry of Health to devise procedures for the prescribing and distribution of Medical Marijuana.

Until the changes come into force, the government will continue to consider any applications made.

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