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WEED WAR! - Health minister to referee as ganja group challenges role of De La Haye

Published:Monday | October 23, 2017 | 12:00 AMChristopher Serju
Dr Winston De La Haye
Health Minister Dr Christopher Tufton

Health Minister Dr Christopher Tufton is now investigating concerns by the Ganja Growers and Producers Association Jamaica over the involvement of Chief Medical Officer Dr Winston De La Haye in workshops geared at providing training in the use of medical marijuana.

According to Tufton, he was made aware of the issue through the media and will conduct a probe and pronounce on the issue in a matter of days.


Conflict of interest


The workshops are hosted by NeuroPsych Services Limited, a company in which De La Haye is a principal, and the ganja growers argue that this is in breach of protocol and a conflict of interest.

"We are calling for an immediate investigation into the matter by the relevant authorities to verify the information and facts and act upon them as necessary," said the group as it questioned how the company controlled by De La Haye's got the job and who benefits from the fees it charges medical practitioners.

The group also charged that doctors were being threatened that unless they undertook the training, they would not be allowed to prescribe medical marijuana when the industry is fully up and running.

"It is a stick-up ... they want to prescribe so they are going to pay. Pharmacists will, too, because they were told unless you register to do this course, you cannot or will not be allowed to prescribe," charged president of the group Orville Silvera.

Prescribing medical marijuana calls for special attention - De La Haye

De La Haye, a consultant psychiatrist, told The Gleaner that prescribing medical marijuana needs special attention.

He said that while any registered physician in Jamaica can prescribe any registered pharmaceutical product requiring a prescription, medicinal cannabis is not only a new product, but one with the ability to precipitate significant mental disorders, whether transient or permanent.

De La Haye further argued that NeuroPsych Limited is a completely independent operation from his job as chief medical officer, a position to which he was seconded from the University Hospital of the West Indies and which comes to an end on January 31, 2018.

He argued that as a consultant, he was allowed to have a private practice and said that the training should benefit even seasoned medical doctors.

"We were all trained in the use of previously existing analgesics and other products in medical school. To my knowledge, cannabis was not included at that time and still isn't in most countries. I look forward to changing that when I return to UWI on February 1, 2018," said De La Haye.

He said that the pioneering work undertaken by NeuroPsych in the workshop series is consistent with the health ministry's mandate to keep the Jamaican population safe and healthy.

"Though my speciality of addiction psychiatry includes the management of cannabis-related disorders and knowledge on the benefits of cannabis, I had no clue where to start with prescribing or recommending until I studied this area," said De La Haye.