Noreen O’Neill and Vera Twomey are backing the Cannabis for Medicinal Use Regulation Bill 2016, which has cleared the first two stages in the Dáil, but remains in the third, committee stage.
Both women say their children have benefited from treatments from oils such as cannabidiol (CBD) oil and tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) which are derived from cannabis.
Ms O’Neill from Kilgarvan, Co Kerry said her son Michael, who will turn two later this year, has stopped suffering debilitating seizures since she started treating him with CBD oil. He was diagnosed with bilateral frontal polymicrogyria and global developmental delay at just three months old and subsequently suffered several seizures a day.
An open letter Ms O’Neill sent to Health Minister Simon Harris earlier this year, outlining her plight, was widely shared online. In the letter, she notes: “At his worst, Michael was having up to 20 seizures in one day. Can you imagine what it’s like to watch a baby convulsing, Minister? During those times, a typical day in the hospital would be me waking up to get sick before I did anything else.”
She said the improvements to Michael since treating him with the oil are life-changing — but that further licensing and laws are needed to give parents access to the medicines they need to treat their children.
The Irish Examiner first reported on Ms Twomey’s campaign for medicinal cannabis more than two years ago. Her daughter, Ava, suffers from Dravet syndrome, a rare but severe form of epilepsy. Ms Twomey, too, says CBD oil has helped her daughter.
Ms Twomey’s campaigning was last month recognised at the People of the Year Awards. She used her speech at the ceremony to plead directly to Taoiseach Leo Varadkar, who was in the audience, for legislation on medicinal cannabis to give people an opportunity to ‘live their lives’: “To live and to grow and to be happy with a brighter future because everyone deserves that right now and into the future, not just seven people who have been granted licenses in Ireland to date but the thousands of other people who are watching here tonight, hoping and praying that legislation would be brought through to ease their suffering and their pain.”
Ms O’Neill and Ms Twomey will give a press conference in Cork tomorrow.