Minister for Health and Wicklow TD Simon Harris has today signed legislation to allow the operation of the Medical Cannabis Access Programme under a pilot basis for five years.
The legislation comes two years after the government announced its intentions to establish a medical cannabis programme.
The new scheme will facilitate access to cannabis-based products for medical use, that are of a standardised quality and which meet the requirements outlined in the legislation.
Speaking about the launch today, Minister Harris was keen to emphasise that there are no intentions to legalise the use of cannabis in Ireland, stating that its use will be for medical purposes only.
“It is important to state that there are no plans to legalise cannabis in this country. The purpose of this programme is to facilitate compassionate access to cannabis for medical reasons, where conventional treatment has failed.
“Ultimately, 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,” said Harris.
The medical cannabis scheme will allow doctors to prescribe medical cannabis to patients with specific medical conditions, who have failed to respond to standard treatments.
These conditions include; spasticity associated with multiple sclerosis, intractable nausea and vomiting associated with chemotherapy and severe, refractory (treatment-resistant) epilepsy.
There are currently no medicinal cannabis suppliers dealing Ireland, which is why Department of Health officials have travelled throughout Europe in search of a suitable supplier.
The introduction of this legislation now means that commercial operators whose cannabis products meet the specified requirements set out in the legislation will be able to supply these products to the Irish market.
A controlled drugs license will be required for possession, supply or import of such products. Pharmacists will also be able to dispense cannabis for medical use to patients as set out in the legislation.
The department concluded by reminding people that offences and penalties for unauthorised supply and possession of controlled substances remains unchanged.