I am calling for the legalisation of medical cannabis and welcome the commitment by Minister Harris to examine the issue in January

Today I called for the legalisation of medical cannabis and welcomed Minister Simon Harris’ commitment to examine this issue in January.

The legalisation of cannabis for medical use is something that has already been legislated for in a number of other jurisdictions, including Australia, Canada, 25 US States, Croatia and the Czech Republic.

Meanwhile in the UK a cross-party campaign is underway to legalise cannabis for medicinal use and to allow sick people to grow their own cannabis under licence. A study conducted by neurologist Professor Mike Barnes reviewed 20,000 studies going back to the 1960s and concluded that medical cannabis helps alleviate chronic pain, anxiety and muscle problems, particularly linked to multiple sclerosis and the side effects of chemotherapy.

Here in Ireland it is something that a number of people are campaigning for, especially the parents of sick young children. Recently I was made aware of the case of a six year old girl, who suffers from Dravets syndrome, a rare, drug-resistant form of epilepsy which can cause up to 20 seizures in a day. Following the use of CPD oil (cannabis oil) this little girl’s mother believes the rate of her daughter’s seizers has reduced by up to 80%. She believes that a liquid form of medical cannabis has the potential to save her child’s life.

This mother’s call for legalisation has been echoed by a father whose son suffers from a terminal brain tumour. He believes CPD oil has also reduced the pain that his son experiences daily.

These cases highlight the need for urgent legislation in this area. I welcome the fact that the Minister for Health Simon Harris has asked the Health Products Regulatory Authority (HPRA) to provide expert advice on this issue. The Minister has asked the HPRA to provide advice on:
– recent developments in the use of cannabis for medical purposes; in particular this should include: an overview of products that have been authorised in other jurisdictions; an overview of the wider on-going and emerging clinical research in new indications and evidence of efficacy
– an overview of the different regulatory regimes in place in countries which allow cannabis to be used for medicinal purposes
– legislative changes that would be required to allow use of cannabis for medicinal purposes in Ireland.

“The Oireachtas Health Committee is also due to examine the issue of cannabis for medical purposes later this month and Minister Harris has said he hopes to receive the report from the HPRA and the output from the Oireachtas Health Committee in January. I welcome the fact that Minister Harris has confirmed he will then be in a position to move forward with any legislative changes that may be recommended and hope this will be done as soon as possible.

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