Anyone reading Monday’s (August 8th) Irish Independent or the story online would have learnt that the Irish government is to consider proposals to make cannabis based medicines available.
Here are some details about the situation along with my own opinions. Here's a link to the Irish Independent article
In response to a parliamentary question from Labour TD, Joe Costello (who’s been vocal on this issue and the Noel McCullagh case), Junior Health Minister, Roisin Shortall said she was aware of claims that cannabis could be beneficial in the treatment of some illness and was looking into the matter, with departmental documents being prepared for the Health Minister, Doctor James Reilly.
According to the article in the newspaper, the department is looking at plans to allow travellers from other EU states to legally bring cannabis products prescribed for medical use into the country with them, this is under the terms of the Schengen Agreement, which covers the movement of people carrying drugs prescribed for medical usage between two EU member states.
Mr. Costello said he “asked the same question of Mary Harney and she said she wasn’t prepared to look at it”
Both Roisin Shorthall and Dr. James Reilly seem more open to cannabis as a medicine, with the latter, our current health minister, making his own enquires to Mary Harney when she was health minister
This whole story possibly stems from the case of Noel McCullagh, an Irish man living in the Netherlands who has been using cannabis to treat his MS for a number of years but has frequently been denied the right to return to Ireland. As mentioned Joe Costello has been vocal about this and you can watch him speak about the case in the Dail, you can watch the video Here
For anyone unfamiliar with Noel's case you can Read more here
The article states cannabis based medicines, one could argue what's more cannabis based than cannabis itself but the general feeling is the it's most likely to be a synthetic version of cannabis that will be allowed. Here's some of the types
Marinol (aka Dronabinol) and Nabilone are two types of synthetic cannabis capsules taken orally.
Sativex is a mouth spray developed by GW Pharmacuticals, which was used in trial research in a Cork hospice and in Waterford Regional Hospital. [Read 2004 article mentioning trials]
In the Netherlands there is three types of medicinal cannabis available through pharmacies, Bedrocan, Bedrobinol and Bediol though these are actually herbal cannabis where composition and strength varies.
What's unclear from the article is whether this is Ireland finally being completely under the Schengen Agreement and not just parts as before, and if cannabis medicines will be available in this country or will only be allowed for people travelling here.
The article opens with "The Government is considering proposals to make cannabis-based medicines available by prescription here. The Department of Health is looking at proposals to allow medicines containing the drug to be made available in certain circumstances" which might give one the hope medical products could be available here or patients could legally supply themselves.
However just a few paragraphs later
"According to departmental briefing documents prepared for Health Minister James Reilly, officials were looking at plans to allow travellers from other EU states to legally bring cannabis products prescribed for medical use into Ireland"
So it seems if this does come into place you would have to get both a doctors recommendation here and elsewhere in the EU where medical cannabis is available before arrangements could be made.
While it's not the drastic step forward some people hope, it's defiantly a start. The process of cannabis law reform is one of gradual change.
As stated, Mary Harney was uninterested about medical cannabis but the new junior health minister and health minister seem to share a different view, with James Reilly asking Harney about Sativex last July Reilly askes Harney about Sativex
If the government does follow through on this then one thing it would certainly due is bring into question the Schedule One ruling that cannabis falls under by law. Is Ireland finally about to recognise the medicinal properties of cannabis?
Let's not forget Limerick born doctor William Brooke O'Shaughnessy helped to popularise the use of cannabis as a medicine in the western world in the 1800's