Updated on January 30, 2019. Medical content reviewed by Dr. Joseph Rosado, MD, M.B.A, Chief Medical Officer
As of the first half of 2018, patients in Ireland with select conditions can get legal access to medicinal cannabis. But, the medical marijuana movement still has a long way to go. Despite the promise of a medical marijuana program, nothing has been finalized.
In early 2017, Health Minister Simon Harris announced in a report that he would support the legalization of medical marijuana for issues like epilepsy, multiple sclerosis and chemotherapy side effects. Over a year later, no guidelines have been finalized.
But, some patients have found success in directly petitioning the government for a license to use marijuana medicine. Under The Misuse of Drugs Regulations 2017, you can request to use cannabis for medicinal purposes. While patients and advocates eagerly await the formal establishment of a nationwide program, this method is their best bet.
An Irish doctor had the honor of introducing the concept of medical cannabis to Europe. From 1833 to 1841, Dr. William O’Shaughnessy spent time in India researching. Inspired by local indigenous people who used cannabis for medical purposes, he conducted a series of studies on animals and humans to learn more about it.
When he returned to England, his research influenced hundreds of studies and made cannabis available in pharmacies until prohibition in 1900. With a government medical marijuana program on the horizon, hopefully Ireland will be able to pick up where O’Shaughnessy’s legacy dropped off.
Ireland does not have recreational marijuana laws. Under the Misuse of Drugs Act 1977, you can’t legally grow or possess cannabis, which is considered a Schedule I drug. The law has loosened somewhat by letting patients and medical professionals do certain cannabis-related activities with authorization.
Patients who live in rural areas don’t have many alternatives when their doctor refuses to recommend medical marijuana. But, the future of Irish telemedicine could change that. A Dublin telemedicine company began to roll out 30 new jobs in 2017, and Tallaght Hospital established a public telemedicine app in early 2018.
Since Simon Harris’ announcement happened in response to a government report stating that cannabis could be used for a wide range of illnesses, patients with conditions besides the ones previously mentioned could qualify. For example, a chronic pain patient successfully received a license in 2017.
To get a license for medical cannabis from the government, patients can use a suggested application from Chronic Pain Ireland. At the time of writing, Ireland has no official program, but this template has given some patients success. Work with your doctor to customize the letter to your situation.
Here’s a few facts on Ireland’s program:
The Misuse of Drugs Act punishes cannabis possession based on intent. Offenders caught with marijuana for personal use could only get a fine on their first or even second conviction. But, they have a good chance of getting up to a year in jail from the third offense onwards.
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