Medicinal Use Of Cannabis To Be Reviewed

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The law on medicinal cannabis use is to be reviewed, the health minister has announced.

Simon Harris said that the Health Products Regulatory Authority (HPRA), which regulates medicines, had been asked to give scientific advice on the benefits of the medicinal use of the drug.

“This is not a discussion about decriminalising cannabis in any way shape or form,” he said. “It it is about reviewing our current policy and seeking to inform ourselves of the latest medical and scientific evidence on the potential medical benefits of cannabis for some people with certain medical conditions.”

Mr Harris plans to have a second meeting with the mother of a child with severe epilepsy who has been using a cannabidiol oil. Vera Twomey’s daughter Ava, six, suffers from Dravet syndrome, a form of epilepsy that causes frequent seizures. She needed around-the-clock care before using the oil, which is on sale as a legal hemp product.

“I know that many patients believe cannabis should be a treatment option for their medical condition,” Mr Harris, of Aghabullogue, Co Cork, said. “However, cannabis is not currently an authorised medicine and has not gone through the normal regulatory procedures for medicines which are designed to protect patients and ensure treatments are supported by good evidence of their effectiveness.”

The Oireachtas health committee is also looking at the issue and the Anti-Austerity Alliance-People Before Profit group has recently tabled a bill on cannabis for medicinal use.

Billy Kelleher, the Fianna Fail spokesman on health, said that his party would support medicinal use of the drug if the procedures followed were the same as those used when the HPRA authorised sativex, a cannabis base treatment for multiple sclerosis, in 2012.

“If this path was followed, we would have no difficulty with cannabis-based medicines being prescribed to alleviate suffering,” Mr Kelleher said. “It should be strictly controlled and the use of cannabis and cannabis-related products for medicinal purposes should be regulated like other medicines.”

Sinn Fein did not advocate any change in the law for medicinal use. “Our final position will be guided by our commitment to individual and community harm reduction,” a spokesman said.

The Labour Party said it supported any product once it was approved by the HPRA. The Green Party has called for the decriminalisation of cannabis for personal use and legalisation for medicinal use.

Cannabis for medical purposes is available in several countries, including the Netherlands, Czech Republic, Canada, Australia, Malta, Croatia and certain states in the US.

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