As a chronic pain sufferer, real estate agent Clint Mifsud* had grown used to dulling the pain through a cocktail of drugs, including the psychotropic Valium, but he never got in trouble with the police for driving under the influence.
Yet everything changed when he recently decided to switch to medical cannabis, which was fully legalised in Malta earlier this year.
The Valium used to make me feel like a zombie and I used to miss work regularly but I feel completely normal now.
â€śMy doctor put me on a ten day trial run – a few puffs of sativa in the morning to wake me up, a few puffs of indica at night to put me to sleep and CBD oil throughout the day when I needed a boost,â€ť Clint told Lovin Malta. â€śIt worked wonders for me. I used to have trouble sleeping and used to wake up late everyday but Iâ€™m now sleeping regular hours and running in the morning. I never used to run before but the sativa is giving me the energy to workout and exercise. The Valium used to make me feel like a zombie and I used to miss work regularly but I feel completely normal now.â€ť
However, Clint soon encountered a nasty catch after his trial run ended and he decided to continue taking the medical cannabis.
His doctor Andrew Agius requested the Superintendence of Public Health to renew his patientâ€™s permit, a requirement by law for medical cannabis that isnâ€™t in place for other drugs like Valium or even morphine.
Andrew Agius runs The Pain Clinic in Paola
The Superintendence requested further information, including details of the patientâ€™s condition and the impact the medicine had on him, a copy of his original prescription, a copy of his control card and knowledge of his driving license status.
However, when Agius confirmed that his patient has a valid driving license, the Superintendence got back with a template for the doctor to fill out and send to the police commissioner to medically advise him to rescind his patientâ€™s driving license. The patientâ€™s medical cannabis prescription, Agius was informed, would not be renewed until the police had revoked his driving license.
In its email, the Superintendence referred to an obscure law which states that patients under the effect of psychotropic drugs are not allowed to drive and that doctors who prescribe such drugs must inform the police of their patientsâ€™ driving status.
â€śThe reality is that this law is never enforced with other psychotropic drugs like valium or morphine whose sedative side effects are much stronger than cannabis,â€ť Agius said. â€śWhile doctors advise their patients not to drive when under the effects of a psychotropic drug, they donâ€™t refer the cases to the police. Some psychotropic drugs, such as combinations of paracetamol and codeine, can cause more drowsiness than THC but can be purchased over the counter with the pharmacist sometimes not even advising the patient against driving.â€ť
The Superintendence of Public Health doesn’t even oblige doctors to refer morphine prescriptions to the police
As for Clint*, he now faces an uncertain future and a dreading realisation that he might well have to start taking his zombifying cocktail of pills again.
â€śIâ€™m a real estate agent so I need my car for work and I canâ€™t just lose my job,â€ť he said. â€śI donâ€™t know what comes next for me. I suppose I just have to hope things change.â€ť
The Superintendence of Public Health did not respond to a request for comment as of the time of writing.
*The patientâ€™s name has been altered to protect his identity