'We have been given a car with no keys': Calls for medicinal cannabis programme to be expedited

'We have been given a car with no keys':  Calls for medicinal cannabis programme to be expedited

Campaigners and patients have hit out at the slow roll-out of medical cannabis that means they must still buy the drug on the black market.

Calls have been made on the Government to provide a clear commencement date for the Medical Cannabis Access Programme (MCAP).

It was understood the programme would take between eight and 10 weeks to roll out after it was announced in June, but no patient has yet received medication under the scheme.

People Before Profit TD, Gino Kenny warned that many people are being forced to travel abroad to get the medication or are purchasing the drug from the black market.

"People understood that after the law was changed in late June patients would start getting legal and medical access to medicinal cannabis products. The whole process has been extremely protracted," he said.

Brendan Gorman, whose son Ryan has epilepsy said it is very frustrating that medicinal cannabis is now legal but still cannot be accessed.

"We have a minister who's given us a car, but failed to give us a key to the car, that's putting it in simple terms, what good is it if you can't drive it?" he asked.

Minister for Health Simon Harris signed legislation to provide medicinal cannabis to patients who have not responded to standard treatments over the summer.

Those suffering with multiple sclerosis (MS), nausea and vomiting associated with chemotherapy and those with treatment-resistant epilepsy qualify to take part in the five-year pilot scheme.

But Mr Kenny claimed "bureaucracy" and " institutional resistance" are now stalling the full introduction of the programme.

The Dublin Mid-West TD said 24 ministerial licences have been granted to patients, but these people must still travel to the Hague to purchase the prescribed medicinal cannabis.

One such person is Pamela Fowler whose son Ryan, 20, was recently granted a ministerial licence to treat a rare sarcoma tumor which causes severe pain.

"To pump a young person full of all these opiates and to tell them about the importance of their mental health, and getting out and socialising...but if you're zombified in the chair because you've taken so many meds to stop the pain, it's very hard. So, we decided to look at medical cannabis and the difference in my son today is phenomenal."

But she said her family must spend hundreds of euro per month on the prescription as this is not paid for by the State, and on top she must pay for flights to the Hague to collect the prescription.

Medical director and founder of the Priority Medical Clinic Dublin, Dr Garrett McGovern said: "It is important that there are no further delays to its implementation. I hope in time the programme will include GPs as well as consultants and that the range of illnesses and symptoms for which it is indicated will expand.”

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