Progress is Blocked

A Bill calling for the legalisation of medical cannabis in Ireland was rejected by the Oireachtas Health Committee in July over fears that it could potentially “decriminalise the recreational use of the drug”.

The bill, which was put forward by People Before Profit TD, Gino Kenny, was attempting to make cannabis-based medicine available to individuals via prescription from a registered doctor.

However, the committee decided that due to the bill being “as much about decriminalising the use of cannabis as it is about promoting it for medicinal use”, it was to be rejected. They also highlighted that the bill’s proposal to establish a “Cannabis Regulatory Authority to regulate cannabis” would “undermine the current regulatory framework for medicine in the State, which involves the Health Products Regulatory Authority and the Pharmaceutical Society of Ireland”.

This decision was met with some criticism by Irish Health Minister, Simon Harris, who stated that the committee had been “highly biased” against medical cannabis from the offset and shown “almost zero” objective analysis of the evidence.

 The Dáil Éireann -  Photo Credit

The Dáil Éireann - Photo Credit

A Lengthy Process

This result comes as the latest milestone in an arduous journey towards the legalisation of medical cannabis, the current chapter of which started in July 2016, when Kelly first proposed the Bill.

Initially, it seemed as though the bill would be fast-tracked as it was passed through Ireland’s lower house of parliament without a vote. However, the process was then seemingly stalled by a hesitant government for several months.

During this time, several high-profile news stories emerged of Irish families travelling into Europe to be able to legally acquire the cannabis based treatments they needed for their children’s medical conditions. This media attention gave the bill momentum but ultimately was ineffective in aiding its passing, as the Oireachtas Health Committee reached their decision to reject it in July 2017.

Hope for the Future

Ireland’s history with medical cannabis poses an ironic clash with its government’s current stance, considering William Brooke O'Shaughnessy, an Irish physician, was the man that first introduced the plant into western medicine. However, there is hope that this historical dissonance may still be rectified through future legislation.

The Oireachtas Health Committee decided that People Before Profit would be unable to simply amend the bill, as the numerous changes presented “an onerous undertaking”. Therefore it is the task of the advocates to draft a new bill that may adhere to the committee’s requirements - something that Simon Harris stated is already underway and hopes to be completed and ready for submission by the end of 2017.