FOR MS sufferer Noel McCullagh one of the side effects of taking the medicinal cannabis product, Bedrocan, is banishment from his native Ireland.
The EU Ombudsman has appealed to the Irish authorities to allow the 35-year-old Galway man, who lives in the Netherlands, to come home to visit his family, and bring his medication with him.
The Ombudsman Nikiforos Diamandouros has also asked the Irish Ombudsman and the Irish Human Rights Commission to take up the case of Mr McCullagh with the authorities.
A number of countries, including Belgium, the Netherlands, Austria and Germany, have legalised the use of cannabis compound prescribed by doctors and used for ailments such as multiple sclerosis.
However, Ireland has not and Mr McCullagh has said he is regularly warned against coming into the country with his supply of Bedrocan, which is manufactured in the Netherlands and exported.
He was first diagnosed with the muscle-wasting disease five years ago and the medication he was initially on made him shake and made movement difficult.
“It made a huge difference to my life when I was prescribed Bedrocan — it allows me to appear normal and to move around easily,” Mr McCullagh said.
But when he contacted the Irish authorities to check if he could bring it with him when he was going to Ireland for his sister’s wedding in 2007, he was shocked to get a very firm rejection.
A fluent Dutch speaker who worked as a journalist in Amsterdam for a number of years and is now a postman, Mr McCullough said that for him the medical cannabis is not a recreational drug. “I have to take it each morning. I melt it into butter and spread it on my bread. I don’t really like taking it but my doctor says if I stop taking it I will get worse and end up in a home,” he said.
“But what I hate most of all is the side effects of being totally distrusted by the authorities who do not understand it is a medication, of being banished from visiting my home country and being denied the right to visit my family,” he said.
He was a candidate in the European elections and got 2,000 votes despite not being able to canvass. He went back to Galway to vote but was aware he was taking a risk.
“I try to lead as normal a life as possible. But MS just gets worse, there’s no time when it gets better,” he said, adding he had joined a euthanasia club two years ago.
He appealed to the EU Ombudsman after the European Commission investigated his complaint but found Ireland was entitled to apply its Misuse of Drugs Act 1977 to him.
© Irish Examiner Ltd. All rights reserved