Ireland’s Health Minister, Simon Harris, said that his department is looking at ways to give patients “quality assurance” for medical cannabis under the country’s medicinal cannabis access program.
It was in 2017 when Harris announced that he was setting up a medical cannabis access program. He said that they will consult with patients, prescribers, and pharmacists when they would begin drawing up the guidelines that will govern the use of cannabis treatment for qualified patients.
The medical cannabis access program aims to give qualified patients access to cannabis -based therapies for the treatment of diseases and medical conditions like multiple sclerosis, chemotherapy-induced vomiting and nausea, and refractory, severe, and treatment-resistant epilepsy. The program is still being developed.
Panel of experts draft guidelines
This program is established pursuant to the recommendations of the Health Products Regulatory Authority. Harris had said that he fully accepts the HPRA’s recommendations, which also noted that there are certain circumstances when a patient should be prescribed medical cannabis.
In March 2017, an expert group was convened to advise on the access program’s development.
A panel of doctors and medical professionals, headed by Dr. Mairín Ryan of the Health Information and Quality Authority, then started drafting guidelines on how Ireland will handle the prescription of medical cannabis, as well as the supply and the distribution to qualifying patients.
Dr. Ryan had described this as a huge step for the country.
The panel has already developed practice and clinical guidelines for the program, and it is expected that these guidelines will be published very soon.
Just recently, Harris told his colleagues in the Cabinet that the department is now looking at the best way to source medical marijuana products with appropriate “quality assurance” to help ensure they are affordable yet safe for use patients.
The Health Service Executive has also been requested to set up and maintain a register that would facilitate the program.
For now, a consultant doctor signs off on medicinal cannabis prescriptions.
If a medical clinician believes that any patient needs a drug or substance that is not legal in the country, they are required to apply for a license from the Minister for Health. The health minister can consider granting the license under the Misuse of Drugs Act.
A secondary legislation is being drafted
According to a government spokesperson, the access program is going to put the process of obtaining medical marijuana in the country on more solid footing.
It can be recalled that a bill presented by Solidarity-PBP’s Gino Kenny to allow the prescription of medical cannabis in Ireland has not been allowed to move forward to Committee Stage. This is because the Oireachtas Health Committee does not think the proposal should be allowed to advance in its current form.
Specifically, in its report regarding the matter, the joint health committee pointed out a large range of issues with the bill. Thus, the committee, which had held two hearings regarding the bill in April 2017, recommended that the bill not be allowed to progress any further. .
This is why a draft for secondary legislation is underway. This legislative proposal, which will underpin the access program, will be finalized as soon as the appropriate cannabis product supplies are established.
Cannabis in Ireland
Pursuant to the 1998 regulations of the country’s Misuse of Drugs Act 1977, cannabis and all cannabis derivatives are listed as Schedule I drugs, which means that the manufacture, production, preparation, sale, supply, distribution, and possession of the drug are considered unlawful for either medical or recreational purposes.
However, while the use and other activities related to recreational cannabis are considered a criminal offense, the use of the drug for medical purposes is allowed with the special approval of the Minister of Health.