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Ireland Mulls New Cannabis Regulations, Formal Medical Use

September 8, 2016

Irish patients suffering from cancer, multiple sclerosis, or epilepsy may have cause for hope thanks to the July introduction of a parliamentary bill that would legalize and regulate the medical use of cannabis and cannabinoid products, a milestone on the Emerald Isle.

Irish MP Brid Smith, of the People Before Profit Alliance, an opposition party in parliament, as well as other in the legislature introduced the bill with the support of working with support from non-governmental organizations including Help Not Harm. The bill’s expected to come to a vote during the current term.

The legislation includes elements featured in other European medical laws, such as establishing safety, labeling, and production norms. It would create a Cannabis Regulation Authority that would oversee the new market and bear any unforeseen costs of implementation.

There is still widespread confusion in Ireland and the British Isles over what cannabinoids are legal and what treatments are feasible, so advocates and educators behind the bill are going further by holding a multidisciplinary conference. The Global Medical Cannabis Summit, set for Sept. 14 in Dublin, aims to foster a thoughtful discussion and pave the way for reintroduction of the plant to Irish society.

“The first Western scientific article on cannabis-based medicine was published by Irish-born Sir William O’Shaughnessy in 1837,” noted Graham de Barra, Help Not Harm’s director, adding that he’d like to see modern Irish society benefit from the plant the same way patients in other countries do.

The Irish emphasis on fact-based discussion is in lockstep with the work being done to reform cannabis laws now taking place by groups like End Our Pain in the U.K., a country where drug policy has been based on repression.

It’s Time to Treat Medical Cannabis Like Medicine

Roughly a million Britons rely on cannabis for medical reasons, according to estimates, yet they, like their Irish brethren, risk breaking the law each time they seek to obtain or use cannabis-based medicine.

What is legal for use is cannabidiol (CBD), a non-intoxicating compound found in cannabis that patients have used to find relief from many illnesses, such as Dravet syndrome, a severe form of childhood epilepsy.

Demand for CBD is solid and growing, according to Jim McDonald, owner of The Hemp Company in Dublin, a retailer of CBD for medical use. Yet there’s still an uphill climb before the general public realizes that some forms of relief are already available and that CBD and hemp products offer much to society.

McDonald’s shop supplies CBD to Irish clients with a wide range of ailments from mild to severe, he said, with very positive results and feedback.

But while CBD offers benefits now, many are under the impression it’s illegal in the country. Some exporters in other countries are wary of shipping to Ireland for that same reason.

CBD Holds Promise as Child Epilepsy Treatment, Studies Find

“For some people it’s a bit of gray area,” McDonald said.

To overcome the challenges, the Global Medical Cannabis Summit, which Leafly is sponsoring, will bring together international experts to discuss the latest cannabis research, varying regulatory possibilities, and how the topic can be conveyed effectively and intelligently to the public through the media.

McDonald said that the Irish are watching closely the developments in Germany, where a robust medical cannabis program is in the works. It’s impossible to ignore the medical and adult-use legalization progress being made in the U.S. and elsewhere, he said.

But progress in Ireland starts with education on the facts and a focus on medical uses first. Marc McDonald, Jim’s son, expects Ireland will embrace medical cannabis far before the country warms to adult use.

“More realistic is medical legalization [in Ireland], with Germany going next year.” he said. “Now is a fantastic time to be part of this industry, helping people of all walks of life who are looking after themselves for better quality of life.”

Sean Carney's Bio Image
Sean Carney

Sean Carney is Leafly’s Europe editor. In the 10 years prior to joining Leafly, he was a reporter for The Wall Street Journal, where he initiated coverage of central European drug policy and of the cannabis industry.

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