Legal Irish Medical Cannabis.

The news that medicinal cannabis is set to become legal in Ireland has been welcomed by the UPA. During September last year, some of our main admin team watched eagerly at the Trinity summit in Dublin, as Irish politicians and activists spoke about their work to get the healing properties of cannabis recognised by the Irish state. Now some months later the HPRA's Report has come to light, and there will be legal access to medical cannabis in the Republic of Ireland.

At first glance, the report appears to have an overtly negative tone; it contains much talk of the dangers, and points to a lack of scientific data for the positive benefits of cannabis. However, the author does not require the same rigorous scientific evidence to quantify the benefits, as they do for the potential risks of cannabis consumption.

The report concludes that the prescription of cannabis should be limited to 3 conditions
a. Spasticity associated with multiple sclerosis resistant to all standard therapies and interventions whilst under expert medical supervision;
b. Intractable nausea and vomiting associated with chemotherapy, despite the use of standard anti-emetic regimes under expert medical supervision;
c. Severe, refractory (treatment-resistant) epilepsy that has failed to respond to standard anticonvulsant medications under expert medical supervision

It also recommends limited prescriptions by specialists only.

I don't believe that only specialists should be able to prescribe cannabis, and to limit the approved conditions to those three things is giving the least ground possible, while still having a medical cannabis program. I mean, it’s a small step in the right direction and better than here in the UK, but it’s also a long way off the mark for the clear majority of patients whom I have met. Presumably patients who don't qualify or don't have a specialist who is sympathetic will still be criminalised for taking matters into their own hands?

The report fails to consider the side effects and risks of comparable, existing medications which could be replaced for some with cannabis; it talks about the side effects from cannabis being worse than current pain medication! Opioids have more debilitating side effects, are physically addictive and can be fatal, how could they miss something so important? The minimal side effects that people get from cannabis is in my experience, what leads many patients to stick with cannabis over prescription medications.

" It is important to note that the HPRA is not recommending treatment with cannabis or stating that cannabis is capable of being authorised as a treatment for these medical conditions (with the exception of Sativex which is authorised in Ireland for the treatment of spasticity associated with multiple sclerosis)” With the exception of Sativex?

Last time I looked, Sativex was a whole plant cannabis extract, this statement is uninformed at best. Yes more research is needed but the reason it isn't currently available is (as the report explains but in a different context ) because of its scheduling under the misuse of drugs act.

It seems that the forecast for Irish medical cannabis will be heavily restricted with a huge amount of regulation to the dismay of Irish activist Tom Curran. Tom says “The report is disappointing and it confirms my fears that its recommendations would be for the availability of products manufactured from cannabis by the pharmaceutical industry.” With no regulations for home grows sick people will be caught in the crossfire between what is legal cannabis and what isn't. Tom is now waiting on the Irish health ministers response to the report.

While the report can only be a good thing for the small number of patients who will qualify, it is a shame that so many will still be left out in the cold. Although the HPRA has shown a clear lack of understanding of the consumption of cannabis as a medicine there are some positives, some people will gain some limited access to cannabis which is a good thing. But with no mention of growing cannabis or public/private consumption there is still much ground to cover. Help not harms Graham de Barra said “The restrictions will likely lead to more patients becoming criminals. Nonetheless I am hopeful for patients that come under the three conditions which are: 1. Severe epilepsy; 2. nausea associated with chemo-therapy, and; 3. Multiple Sclerosis.”

It is positive day and a small victory but there is still a long way to go for the majority of Irish patients to have legal access to cannabis. We can only hope that change so close to home will put pressure on the UK government to look into it further.

All this fuss over “dried flower tips”.

Clark French.