A bill to legalise cannabis for medicinal use was rejected by the Oireachtas Health Committee out of fear that it could decriminalise the recreational use of the drug, it has emerged.
The Cannabis for Medicinal Use Regulation Bill was put forward by People Before Profit TD, Gino Kenny, to make cannabis available as a medicinal product for individuals who receive certification from a registered doctor.
“The bill is as much about decriminalising the use of cannabis as it is about promoting it for medicinal use,” the committee states.
After receiving legal advice, the committee decided that amending the bill was not an option — the numerous amendments would be “an onerous undertaking”.
The bill was referred to the Select Committee on Health by the Dáil last December, for a detailed examination, before it proceeded to committee stage.
In its report, the committee said that a proposal to establish a Cannabis Regulatory Authority would undermine the current regulatory framework for medicine in the State.
“Advocates of the bill state that the Health Products Regulatory Authority is not willing to regulate cannabis. It is not possible to regulate the whole extract of a plant that has more than 100 varieties and several hundred components. Authorised medicines must be of high quality, safe, and effective,” it states.
The committee decided that the bill should not proceed to committee stage and recommended that access to medicinal cannabis in Ireland would be better achieved through an access programme and secondary legislation.
Health Minister Simon Harris said work on secondary legislation to underpin the programme would take months to complete, but the clinical access scheme would be operational later this year.
He stressed that the clinical access scheme would be based on medical advice, not political advice.
Mr Kenny said he was not surprised by the report’s findings and accused the committee of being “highly biased” against medicinal cannabis. He felt there had been “almost zero” objective analysis of the evidence.
Cork mother of four young children, Vera Twomey, of Aghabullogue, has moved her family to the Netherlands, so her daughter, Ava, who suffers from a severe form of epilepsy, could get medicinal cannabis.
Ms Twomey has campaigned to get access to a specific medicinal cannabis treatment in Ireland for Ava.
She said the six-year-old girl was on her ninth seizure-free day less than two weeks after beginning a new treatment.
“I want to come back to Ireland with a licence for the medication that Ava needs and to live my life freely and be happy at home. That is all I want,” she said on RTÉ radio yesterday.
Ms Twomey stated that they were co-operating with the doctors in The Netherlands to provide the clinical evidence that the neurologist in Cork University Hospital and the HSE asked them to provide.
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