In November 2022, Mauritius joined a growing number of African countries, such as South Africa, Rwanda and Ghana amongst others, who have legalised the dispensing of cannabis or its extracts to people suffering from a range of medical conditions. The Dangerous Drug Act 2000 (the "Amended DDA") was amended to decriminalise the use of cannabis for medical purposes in Mauritius and, more specifically, it provides clarity on how medical cannabis will be regulated and dispensed.
Definition of Medical Cannabis
Medical cannabis is defined as a product which is –
- "produced from cannabis plant and contains one or more cannabis-based ingredients; and
- is presented in the form of a capsule, an oil-based solution or suspension, or an oro-mucosal spray, and having a concentration of not more than 30 milligrams of tetrahydrocannabinol per millilitre (3% weight per volume) per unit dose and a total volume of not more than 60 millilitres".
Who can use or import medical cannabis?
The Amended DDA provides that no person shall use and/or import medical cannabis unless he has been authorised to do so by the Ministry of Health and Wellness (the "Ministry"). At first instance, medical cannabis will be available to patients who suffer from specific therapeutic conditions and who failed to respond to a more conventional treatment.
The Amended DDA defines "specific therapeutic conditions" as follows, ie, a patient suffering from:
- spasticity, associated with multiple sclerosis, that has failed to respond to conventional treatment;
- severe refractory epilepsy that has failed to respond to conventional anti-convulsant treatment;
- intractable nausea and vomiting, associated with chemotherapy, that has failed to respond to conventional anti-emetic treatment; or
- severe intractable pain that has failed to respond to conventional treatment.
The Amended DDA also provides that patients suffering from other therapeutic conditions may have access to medical cannabis subject to prior authorisation of the Medicinal Cannabis Therapeutic Committee (the "Committee") based on therapeutic evidence.
Regarding the importation of medical cannabis, the Amended DDA provides that no person shall import medical cannabis unless it is imported on behalf of the Ministry and the person has been duly authorised to do so by the Minister of Health and Wellness (the "Minister"). Upon importation of the medical cannabis, the authorised importer shall be subject to strict police supervision when delivering the drug to the Ministry.
An interesting point to note is that a person travelling to Mauritius may be able to bring medical cannabis with him to the country, provided that they have a prescription to that effect and have been authorised by the Ministry.
Who can prescribe the use of medical cannabis?
In order to use medical cannabis, the patient should seek authorisation from an authorised specialist. An authorised specialist is defined as a person duly registered with the Medical Council, who completed a training course approved by the Ministry on the therapeutic use of medical cannabis, and who is authorised by the Ministry to make a request to issue a prescription for medical cannabis.
Once the authorised specialist has identified that a patient is eligible for medical cannabis, he shall then make a request to the Committee. This Committee shall be created in every regional hospital. The authorised specialist can prescribe the drug to the patient only upon approval by the Committee. The Amended DDA provides that the treatment shall be renewable for a period not exceeding three months and on such terms and conditions as the Committee deems fit.
How is the medical cannabis dispensed?
The medical cannabis can only be dispensed to the authorised patient personally, unless the patient appointed a representative who has been duly approved by the Committee. The treatment shall be dispensed in a regional hospital and by an authorised pharmacist. The medical cannabis shall not be dispensed more than once on the same prescription. The pharmacist dispensing the treatment must ensure that he keeps a record of the medical cannabis remitted and enter the relevant details in a register created to that effect.
We believe that legalisation of medical cannabis is a big step for Mauritius and that the cannabis industry has significant market potential that could be highly beneficial for the economy. However, the amendments mentioned above are yet to take effect as a proclamation date has not been set yet. The Amended DDA enables the Ministry to issue guidelines with regards to the use and/or import of medical cannabis. We believe that, in the coming months, there will be regulations and guidelines to that effect.
In addition to the above, it is important to note that the amendments refer to the use and import of medical cannabis but does not cater for cultivation of cannabis.
Reviewed by Martine de Fleuriot de la Colinière, senior executive at ENSafrica (Mauritius)
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