Ireland’s Medical Cannabis Programme To Go Ahead

Ireland - Medical Marijuana
Image: SKopp, Public Domain

Ireland’s Health Products Regulatory Authority’s report on medicinal cannabis has been published and the nation’s Health Minister has announced a compassionate access programme will proceed.

In what the Minister Simon Harris described as a “milestone” in medicinal marijuana policy development for Ireland, the Cannabis for Medical Use – A Scientific Review report has advised that if a scheme should go ahead, it should only cover specific medical conditions.

The conditions recommended are spasticity associated with multiple sclerosis, intractable nausea and vomiting associated with chemotherapy, and severe, treatment resistant epilepsy. In all cases, cannabis is to be used as a medication of last resort.

While the report states scientific evidence supporting the effectiveness of cannabis across a large range of medical conditions is in general poor and often conflicting; it recognises cannabis has potential therapeutic benefits; particularly in relation to the abovementioned conditions.

The report also notes that as the cannabinoid cannabidiol (CBD) does not have any psychotogenic effects, products containing only CBD are not considered ‘controlled drugs’ and can be provided under existing legislation.

Preparations that contain tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) are controlled under the Misuse of Drugs legislation.

“I am very pleased to publish this report which reviews the scientific data and provides an overview of the approaches other countries have taken to medicinal cannabis,” said Minister Harris; who requested the report be developed last November.

“This is something I am eager to progress but I am also obligated to proceed on the basis of the best clinical advice.”

While it’s generally good news, products will not be made available straight away and it appears a swathe of patients suffering other conditions will be no better off.

Even for those who will benefit, there could still be a lengthy wait.

The report is first being referred to the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Health, then there will be consultation between government and stakeholders on how a programme should operate and further analysis of the report will determine if any legislative changes need to be made.

The full Cannabis for Medical Use – A Scientific Review report can be viewed here (PDF).

The medicinal cannabis issue has been a thorny one for the Minister. Last month, Mr. Harris was publicly confronted by a very upset mother over the ongoing delay in getting cannabis oil treatment based on CBD for her daughter, who suffers from Dravet’s Syndrome.

However, Mr. Harris said he was yet to receive an application.

As in many countries just starting down the path of increasing access to medicinal cannabis, existing special arrangements for accessing medications are often accompanied by massive amounts of red tape.

In other recent related news out of Ireland, a recent survey found a majority of family doctors in Ireland support medical cannabis.