Would Ireland Benefit from Medical Marijuana?

Legislation allowing people access to medical cannabis on a limited basis over the next five years was signed into law by Minister for Health Simon Harris in June. 

Harris said the programme would only allow access to cannabis in cases where conventional treatment has failed. He described it as a ‘scheme of last resort’ and advised drugs could only be prescribed by a consultant to treat multiple sclerosis, nausea related to chemotherapy and severe cases of epilepsy.  

People have used medical marijuana for years to treat their illnesses but it is still not legal or deemed safe to use to combat most illnesses. The lack of scientific knowledge surrounding the effects of the drug is one of the main reasons why legislation legalising medical marijuana has been so delayed in Ireland, despite rhetoric surrounding the ability of the drug to ease pain, which is just one of many benefits.  

There is also some evidence that the use of marijuana helps to relieve depression and PTSD symptoms. Ireland had the highest rate of depression with one in eight suffering in 2018 according to a report by Eurostat, the EU central statistics office.  

UCD student Ann Stafford, who suffers from depression and anxiety disorder said, “I take CBD oil and I think it does help with my social anxiety, before I go to college or even leave the house.” 

CBD is a natural compound found in marijuana known as a cannabinoid. These are found in cannabis plants, but doesn’t cause the same psychoactive effects like marijuana may due to the level of THC (tetrahydrocannabinol).  

There has been a surge in CBD products in recent years due to it potentially benefiting people suffering with conditions such as depression and arthritis, which people will support. Along with CBD, Marijuana (Higher THC) is known to relieve patients suffering from more serious illnesses. 

One of the main reasons medical marijuana is being considered in Ireland is due to evidence that smoking marijuana helps alleviate nausea and vomiting caused by chemotherapy. Some studies also show that cannabinoids may either slow down or even kill some types of cancer.  

Chronic pain is also a leading cause of disability world-wide and reviews have found that marijuana and products containing cannabinoids are effective at relieving pain. 

Asked about the possibility of Bord na Móna growing cannabis to supply the much-needed products, Harris said that if the Medical Cannabis Access Programme proved successful, he believed Ireland should look into growing cannabis.  

It is also thought that if Ireland do go down the path of growing their own medical marijuana, we should also look at supplying other countries as there could be a lot of profit for doing so. 

Although Harris expected patients to be able to access the scheme in autumn of 2019, it is now November and there are still no cannabis products are available in Ireland