THE GOVERNMENT WILL not oppose the medicinal cannabis bill due before the Dáil tomorrow, ensuring it will be passed.
The bill is being proposed by AAA-PBP TDs Gino Kenny and Richard Boyd Barrett and seeks to regulate the use of cannabis for medical purposes.
It had already garnered support from opposition parties and independent members of government but the decision by the Minister for Health Simon Harris not to block its path means that it will definitely proceed to committee stage.
Announcing the government’s decision, Harris said that he has been “very clear” that he wants policy in the area reviewed.
“I share the concerns of patients who believe that cannabis should be a treatment option for certain medical conditions and I recognise the urgency and worry they feel,” the minister said.
The Oireachtas Health Committee recently heard evidence from the mother of an epilepsy sufferer who spoke about how treatment with cannabis-based products has reduced her daughter’s seizures dramatically.
The minister has now requested that the Health Products Regulatory Authority (HPRA) provide him with scientific and clinical research to inform him about possible changes to the legal framework surrounding medicinal cannabis.
The minister has, however, expressed some concerns about several elements contained in the bill:
In particular it includes removing references to cannabis from the Misuse of Drugs Act which has the effect of making it legal for anyone to possess cannabis, including for recreational purposes.
Harris also questioned the portions of the bills which propose the establishment of two new agencies to regulate medicinal cannabis.
The bill proposes the establishment of a Cannabis Regulation Authority to “regulate the labelling, advertising and marketing of cannabis and cannabis-based products for medicinal use.”
The bill also proposes a Cannabis Research Institute that would, among a number of functions, research the risks and benefits of cannabis for medicinal and recreational use.
The institute would also cultivate cannabis and manufacture cannabis-based medicinal products.
The minister said the HRPA would already been in a position to fulfill the role of the proposed agencies.
Harris said that he met with deputies Kenny and Boyd Barrett yesterday and that they are willing to make amendments to the bill.
The minister also said that the bill could be examined in greater detail in committee stage and as such the government would not “divide the Dáil” in opposing it.