As of May 2017, medical cannabis became legal in the Cayman Islands as a prescribed drug to treat pain management, nausea from chemotherapy and a number of other conditions. This remains a controversial topic and the recreational use of the drug is still illegal and can result in penalties and imprisonment.
The term ‘medical cannabis’ encompasses any sort of cannabis-based medicine used to relieve symptoms. It can be prescribed for a range of illnesses including epilepsy, multiple sclerosis, long-term pain and chemotherapy patients suffering from nausea. It is anticipated that as medical cannabis becomes more mainstream and more clinical research is done into its benefits, the number of conditions it can be used to treat will increase.
Medical Cannabis in Cayman
According to the Misuse of Drug Law (2017 Revision), cannabis extracts and tinctures of cannabis (plant extract dissolved in ethanol) are lawful in Cayman when prescribed by a medical doctor. However, the recreational use of cannabis remains illegal – this includes possession, importation, manufacture, sale or distribution of cannabis.
More than 500 patients have been prescribed medical cannabis in Cayman since it was made legal two years ago. Here it is primarily used for pain management related to diabetes and multiple sclerosis, and for chemotherapy patients.
It is also being used to treat pain management in dogs suffering with arthritis or cancer. See the Pets section for more information on vets.
It is illegal to travel in and out of Cayman with all forms of cannabis even when prescribed for medicinal purposes. Doctors advise that patients who face drug testing at work discuss the matter with their HR departments prior to using medical cannabis.
Cannabinoid (Cannabis) Oil and E-Cigarettes
Cannabinoids are a form of medical cannabis that can be taken by smoking an e-cigarette.
In September 2019, all local facilities were ordered to stop prescribing and selling vaporising cannabinoids after the Health Practice Commission issued a cease notice. An investigation was opened (and is now closed) into the use of cannabinoids in medicine, and all healthcare practitioners were requested to stop issuing, processing, dispensing or selling any cannabinoid which will be used by vaporisation. The Cayman Islands Medical and Dental Society (CIMDS) suggested that this order was related to the unethical advertising of prescription drugs, however there is no legal barrier to the promotion of the product or its prescription. As of August 2020, Chief Medical Officer Dr. John Lee ordered to lift any alleged prohibitions on the dispensation and prescribing of Medical Cannabis in the Cayman Islands.
There were also concerns about the use of e-cigarettes in the delivery of this drug. The current legislation makes no prohibition on the prescription of cannabinoids and tinctures by registered doctors, including the CBD or THC content in the drug, and leaves the dosage and mode of delivery to the physician. However, the Health Ministry is currently reviewing local legislation to implement intervention measures into the use of vapes or e-cigarettes. This was announced following the recent cases of vaping-related lung injuries and deaths reported in the US. At present, all cannabis vaping products have now been returned to Cayman’s relevant healthcare facilities.