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When politicians support cannabis-based medicines they're supporting medicine, not cannabis

Moves towards regulating the drug have taken a step forward this week.

Image: AP/Press Association Images

LAST WEEK SAW a significant move towards the regulation of cannabis-based treatments in Ireland

The Cannabis for Medicinal Use Regulation Bill passed through the Dáil unopposed by the government after it was proposed by AAA-PBP TD Gino Kenny.

The bill passing the second stage had no legislative effect and the decision of Minister for Health Simon Harris not to oppose it despite several reservations was largely a symbolic one.

While some elements of the bill were criticised by the minister, including wording that he argued could have the unintended consequence of legalising cannabis possession, he decided to let it pass to committee.

Harris said that opposing it would “send the wrong message” and repeatedly referred to numerous patients who have argued that the availability of such products is potentially life-changing.

Whilst it’s too early to say what the exact result of this current push for cannabis-based treatments will be, listening to the members speaking in favour of the bill it was clear what their intentions were in supporting it.

Their support of the bill was not a support of medical marijuana in itself, but a support of medicines that contain cannabis-based ingredients.

One of the best-known such products is Sativex, an oral spray that has been used to treat pain as well as reduce spasms and increase mobility in MS sufferers.

Sativex contains two cannabinoids, THC and CBD, and its use was approved by the Irish Medical Board in 2013.

It took another year for doctors to be able to prescribe it, however, because an amendment was required to the Misuse of Drugs Act.

MS Ireland argues that in reality Sativex remains unavailable to MS sufferers for a number of reasons.

Firstly, because the HSE does not reimburse it and secondly because the drug is also not available to purchase privately.

MS Ireland says this is due to supply chain logistics involving how Sativex needs to be transported and stored.

Other cannabis-based products potentially coming down the line include Epidiolex. The drug contains CBD and has been used to treat rare forms of childhood epilepsy.

Other drugs are made from synthetic cannabinoids such a Marinol, a US-produced treatment for nausea and vomiting.

Both patients and legislators have raised concerns that the delays which befell Sativex could be repeated in other cannabis-based products approved for use in Ireland.

TDs have argued that the proposed bill would eliminate these problems.

Read: Green light: The medicinal cannabis bill will be passed by the Dáil tomorrow >

Read: ‘I’ve seen this work’: Mother takes fight for medical cannabis to Leinster House >

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About the author:

Rónán Duffy

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