Legislation allowing for the operation of the Medical Cannabis Access Programme on a pilot basis for five years has been signed into law, a move welcomed by North Cork Councillor John Paul O’Shea welcomed this week.
Cllr O’Shea’s colleague Simon Harris TD, the Minister for Health, recently signed the legislation for the Programme, which will facilitate access to cannabis-based products for medical use in line with legislation.
Echoing Minister Harris’s sentiments this week, Cllr. O’Shea described the legislation as a ‘significant milestone’ as, for years, families have fought for this Programme to be established. “I am very pleased that this Programme has been advanced as it will help the lives of many families across the country,” Cllr. O’Shea said.
The purpose of the Programme is to facilitate compassionate access to cannabis for medical reasons, where conventional treatment has failed. It follows the clear pathway laid out by the Health Products Regulatory Authority in their expert report ‘Cannabis for Medical Use – A Scientific Review’.
Minister Harris commented: “It will be the decision of the medical consultant, in consultation with their patient, to prescribe a particular treatment, including a cannabis-based treatment, for a patient under their care. It is important to state that there are no plans to legalise cannabis in this country.”
The signing of the legislation underpinning the Access Programme allows for commencement of the operation of the Access Programme, for first stage of which is for potential suppliers to apply to have their medical cannabis products assessed for suitability for medical use.
Currently no medical cannabis products are available in Ireland, however, this legislation now means that commercial operators whose cannabis products meet the specified requirements set out in the legislation and which have been listed in Schedule 1 of the Misuse of Drugs (Prescription and Control of Supply of Cannabis for Medical Use) Regulations will be able to supply these products to the Irish market.
Once suitable medical cannabis products are made available by suppliers, the Access Programme will make it possible for a medical consultant to prescribe a listed cannabis-based treatment for a patient under his or her care for the following medical conditions, where the patient has failed to respond to standard treatments:
- spasticity associated with multiple sclerosis;
- intractable nausea and vomiting associated with chemotherapy;
- severe, refractory (treatment-resistant) epilepsy.
Work on the establishment of Programme began in March 2017, on foot of the conclusions from the Health Products Regulatory Authority’s (HPRA) expert report Cannabis for Medical Use – A Scientific Review, which was prepared at the request of the Minister for Health.