To the great surprise of the Macedonian public, on 20 September 2014 a seminar was held in Skopje about the “Demystification of cannabis for medical use”. Many people expected that the announced seminar would be banned because its main topic of discussion was a plant that is fully forbidden for production and use in Macedonia. Still, much to the pleasure of the organizers “Green alternative” from Macedonia and “ONEJ – Association of Prekumurje Initiative” from Slovenia, the seminar was held without any obstacles by the Police.
It is proven that cannabis has a wide application in industry, i.e. it can be used for the production of food, clothes, fuel, plastic and more than 50.000 other products. But, what is exceptionally important is that more and more people across the world, and even in Macedonia, start using cannabis for the treatment of chronic diseases, such as: cancer, leukemia, diabetes, psoriasis, autism.Exactly because of the need to help people who seek the natural and cheap way to continue their lives we thought that it was time to demystify this plant which is treated as a “illicit drug”. It is time to show that cannabis may help people and improve their health, as well as the general wellbeing.
A big motivation and provocation for discussion with the public were speakers Rick Simpson, Dr. Lumír Ondřej Hanuš, Dr. Paul Hornby and Dr. Robert J. Melamede. These renowned experts with extensive experience presented their findings in this field, as well as world experiences and approaches in the treatment with cannabis. Their visit to Macedonia initiated an avalanche of discussions about the application of cannabis for the treatment in the days that followed and it was proven that there really is a need in Macedonia for more information about this plant.
An undisputable fact is that although there are over 20.000 relevant studies that prove the positive effect and medicinal effects of cannabis, we are still not progressing. We still can’t – or will not – find a more accessible model that will enable wider application and use. Because in most of the world cannabis is still treated as a illicit drug, different countries are currently seeking/finding different ways for the legal regulation of their production, sales and use.
In some countries it is insisted on a legalization model, which means state control of production, sales and use. In other countries it is insisted on the model of decriminalization, which means lack of state control of production, sales and use of cannabis. But, it must be added that these notions are not fully clarified and many different interpretations exist, which is why different countries carry out different policies. Thus, for example, in Uruguay, production and use for personal use have been fully legalized, while in Israel cannabis is intended for a strictly controlled medical use. In the past ten years, cannabis has been legalized and decriminalized in more than twenty five US states, of which Colorado and Washington have gone so far to allow recreational use. In Europe, Portugal, Spain, Italy, Holland, Switzerland, Czech Republic and Romania already introduce alleviations when it comes to medicinal and/or recreational use of cannabis.
From the former Yugoslav republics, in Slovenia, Croatia and Serbia there already exists the possibility to produce products from industrial cannabis intended for consumption (seeds, flour, tea, cooking oil), cosmetics, textile, construction materials, and a model is being sought to regulate medicinal use.
In Macedonia production, sales and use of cannabis are illegal, although until a year ago, some health stores sold seeds, flour, protein, oil and tea. Now that is forbidden too.
Still, worldwide, regardless of the legal regulations, both where it is legal and where it’s not, ill people to whom contemporary medicine cannot help, seek their cure in cannabis, particularly in the resin produced by its flowers.
In the last several years, the number of people using the cannabis resin for treatment is growing in Macedonia, too. These people call themselves “illegally cured” because there are some among them who have fully recovered, and some who keep their condition under control thanks to the resin. All this depends on the type of illness and the specific diagnosis. But, what is characteristic is that more and more people in Macedonia have great results in the treatment of chronic diseases, and it is not rare that we can even talk about “miraculous” curing of people on whom modern medicine gave up.
Thanks to Rick Simpson, who has published the recipe for preparation of the resin on the Internet, people with serious health issues in Macedonia can learn how to produce the cure themselves. But, there is one major problem here. Because of legal regulations in Macedonia, they are treated as criminals.
Cannabis in Macedonia is treated as a illicit drug and can only be found on the black market. But there aren’t always enough quantities there, or the quality of cannabis is not good, or the type of cannabis sold does not have the needed characteristics. As Rick Simpson pointed out in his lecture, plants of the species Cannabis Sativa are most common in Europe, while recommended for treatment are the plants of the species Cannabis Indica. For some people, the procurement of the Cannabis itself is a great financial burden. That’s why, because of procurement problems, many people decide to independently raise cannabis for production of the resin they need for treatment.
The contradictoriness in legislative is more than evident here as well. According to article 215 of the Criminal Code of the Republic of Macedonia, “a person who without authorization produces, processes, sells or offers for sale, or who for the purpose of selling, buys, keeps or transports, or mediates in the selling or buying, or in some other way releases for trade, without authorization, narcotics, psychotropic substances and precursors, shall be punished with imprisonment of one to ten years”. Based on this, people risk being arrested and sentenced only because they want to be cured. Although according to article 39 of the Constitution of the Republic of Macedonia, every citizen should not only have the right to health recognized, but it is also considered that any person has the obligation to improve his/her health, this group of citizens is robbed of this right of theirs. In Macedonia, they are left to fight on several fronts – first with their disease, then with the Police and the law.
The limitations to opportunities for treatment were the reason to found “Green alternative”. “Green alternative” is an association of citizens who strives to turn the attention of the professional public in Macedonia and to open a debate for the medical attributes of cannabis. In that way, what is now a public secret can become practice. “Green Alternative” commits towards finding a model to regulate the use of cannabis not only as a medicine, but also about means for prevention of many diseases. The public should know that cannabis is a natural plant with medical attributes and it can replace many chemical medicines that cause dependence but they are available for purchase at the moment.
The author is member of the association “Zelena alternativa” (Green alternative)