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Dublin: 10 °C Wednesday 17 October, 2018
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Review of medicinal cannabis begins after mother's protest march yesterday

Simon Harris will seek expert scientific advice on the issue, he said today.

Image: Shutterstock/Oxana Davydenko

HEALTH MINISTER SIMON Harris has announced a review of Ireland’s policy on medicinal cannabis, which is currently strictly controlled.

The announcement comes a day after mother Vera Twomey began a 150-mile protest from Cork to Dublin to try to persuade the government to legalise cannabis for medical purposes.

Vera’s six-year-old daughter Ava has Dravets syndrome, an extremely rare, drug-resistant form of epilepsy which at its worst, causes up to 20 seizures in a day.

Vera says that medicinal marijuana in liquid form has the potential to save her daughter’s life, as it reduces the frequency of Ava’s seizures – she says by about 80%.

Having been frustrated by continuous efforts to contact the Department of Health, and after her daughter had a particularly violent seizure, Vera set off on a 150-mile protest to try and get the government’s attention.

Speaking on RTÉ’s Drivetime tonight, Vera said that she and other people who had joined her had walked 20 miles and arrived in Mallow at about six o’clock when Minister Simon Harris rang her.

“He said well Vera I’m not comfortable that you are doing this, that you are walking all the ways up to Dublin; you don’t have to do this.”

I said to Simon I’m not comfortable having to walk 20 miles either but what am I going to do? What are you going to do?”

A formal meeting was arranged between Harris and Vera and the minister later released a statement regarding the medicinal cannabis.

In the statement, Harris says that he has asked the Health Products Regulatory Authority (formerly the Irish Medicines Board) to provide him with their expert scientific advice on the issue.

“This is not a discussion about decriminalising cannabis in any way shape or form, 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”, the Minister said.

Minister Harris continued, “I met with Vera Twomey in June and I understand the very difficult situation the family are in. I look forward to meeting with Vera again in the coming days.

I know that many patients believe cannabis should be a treatment option for their medical condition.

“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.”

Cannabis for medical purposes is available in a number of countries, such as the Netherlands, Czech Republic, Canada, Australia, Malta, Croatia and certain states in the United States, but is currently strictly controlled in Ireland.

With reporting from Gráinne Ní Aodha.

Read: “If we don’t get the legislation, we mightn’t have Ava for much longer”: A mother’s 150-mile protest

Read: No movement in teachers’ pay discussions ahead of next week’s strike

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