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High Noon at the Cannabis Corral

Thousands of my severely ill autism and epilepsy patients stand to lose continuity of care, all for a political publicity stunt
Illustrative image of someone purchasing medicinal marijuana in Tel Aviv. (Abir Sultan/Flash90)
Illustrative image of someone purchasing medicinal marijuana in Tel Aviv. (Abir Sultan/Flash90)

I am back sooner than I would have liked.

Sometime Monday or Tuesday I was scheduled to join the representative of patients being treated with cannabis in a meeting with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. We were called at last minute notice then cancelled, but it turns out the meeting took place, a secret meeting between the PM and Health Ministry officials, with no public voice. The results are in yesterday’s post.

But the showdown is slated for tomorrow. As I write, one of the suppliers – who provides the oils that keep at least 50 of my 600 patients out of harm’s way – received an email from the Director of the Health Ministry (an economist!) – informing him that the Ministry plans to seize the supplier’s stock in order to stock the pharmacies (just how many pharmacies? on what legal basis?? what will the scene look like – police confiscating oils and flowers???).

Now all of my autism and epilepsy patients – several thousand children – have no access to the pharmacies because under the so-called reform, pharmacies have licenses (that the Ministry has been automatically renewing) rather than “prescriptions” (the prescriptions have been signed by a pharmacist in the place marked signature of physician). The upshot is that any minute the continuity of care of severely ill children will be interrupted.

And there’s some mumbo jumbo that all the current licenses for distributors that the Ministry just renewed will be transformed into licenses for the pharmacies. This, after the Ministry promised the High Court in July to leave all of these licenses for children alone for a year.

If you were a parent of a acutely ill child, who would you believe?

So as I write the patients’ representatives are up all night drafting an injunction to try and prevent the seizure. And as I write the Director of the Ministry is communicating to the media about the medical facts of cannabis, a strange thing for an economist to know in depth. Not a single treating physician from the Ministry has stepped up to defend this last move – or any of the preceding zigzags that make the Ministry’s “position” impossible to understand.

But oh, I almost forgot to mention: There are reports that Moshe Feiglin and the PM are close to a deal. Feiglin claims he achieved legalization – but only for medical cannabis patients. So what was his achievement? The cannabis will be available in pharmacies. That’s an “achievement” that runs contrary to the needs of the patients.

Could it be that the incomprehensibly absurd statements of the Ministry are connected to the Feiglin “achievement?”

Would anyone care to chance a guess whether

Chances are the Court will stay the seizure, or rule that the “seizure” was a patently illegal media event. And if that happens, in keeping with this government’s usual playbook, it will be that terrible Supreme Court that has spoiled the PM’s splendid achievements. Is this the media showdown to be enacted Thursday?

There is one thing that no one needs to guess: The last two weeks have left medical cannabis consumers speechless. That is what one said to me tonight when I called to update. Whatever else is happening, the victims are parents of ill children who deserve better, and adults with chronic disabilities whose needs are being trampled. The whole thing is a source of deep shame.

About the Author
Alan Flashman was born in Foxborough, MA, and gained his BA from Columbia, MD from NYU, Pediatrics, Adult and Child Psychiatry specialties at Albert Einstein College of Medicine, The Bronx, NY. He has practiced in Beer Sheba since 1983, and taught mental health at Hebrew University, Tel Aviv University and Ben Gurion University. He is currently CEO of Family Instiute of Neve Yerushalyim, sponsoring a first fully accredited post-masters training in family therapy for the Haredi community. Alan has edited readers on Therapeutic Communication with Children (2002) and Adolescents (2005) in Hebrew, translated Buber's I and Thou anew into Hebrew, and authored Losing It, an autobiography, and From Protection to Passover.
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