Vera Twomey, mother of Ava and medicinal marijuana advocate, began a camp out last week at the gates of Leinster House. This protest aimed at ensuring her seven year old daughter Ava, would receive access to cannabidiol (CBD) oil to treat her rare illness, Dravets syndrome. While this protest has received huge media coverage, it is only one, in a long-list of reports, articles and statements which suggest reform is imminent. Entrepreneurial opportunities will accompany legislative reform, but how will this product be introduced to the Irish market?
So, How Will Medicinal Marijuana be Licensed?
According to the Health Products Regulatory Authority (HRPA), treatment will soon be available to a limited number of medical conditions. Products containing CBD are not considered “controlled drugs” and can be provided under existing legislation. However, the HRPA state their is a lack of robust data and until this issue ratified, legislative reform cannot occur. The HRPA also recommend a monitored treatment program should be introduced for the first five years, should legislation be augmented.
Which Laws Dictate Use of Medicinal Marijuana?
- Health Act (1947)
- Poisons Act (1961)
- Medical Preparations Regulations (1970)
- Misuse of Drugs Act (1977,1984)
- EU and other International Regulations
- Criminal Justice Act (1994)
How Will Medicinal Marijuana be Introduced to Ireland?
No national government in Europe supports legalization of cannabis sale for recreational use, and all countries have prison sentences for illegal supply. However, several draft laws have been proposed to national parliaments in the last few years, as well as some initiatives in regions or cities that were rejected at national level.
In the Netherlands, coffee shops are outlets for the sale and (often on-site consumption) of cannabis, which started to appear in the 1970s. They are licensed by the municipality, and about two-thirds of Dutch municipalities do not allow them. There were 591 coffee shops in 2014, with nearly one third in Amsterdam; numbers have been falling since 2000. Sale and personal possession is punishable by imprisonment under Dutch law, but coffee shops are tolerated provided they adhere to strict criteria published in a directive of the public prosecutor. However, there is no toleration of production of the stock, creating a legal anomaly known in the Netherlands as the ‘back door problem’.
Cannabis Social Clubs
In a number of European countries, groups of users have formed ‘cannabis social clubs’. They claim that, in principle, if cultivation of one cannabis plant is tolerated for one person’s use, then 20 plants together might be tolerated for a club of 20 people. No national government in Europe accepts this, though some regions in Spain have attempted to pass regulations to limit the proliferation of such clubs. In 2015, the Spanish Supreme Court clearly stated that ‘organized, institutionalized and persistent cultivation and distribution of cannabis among an association open to new members is considered drug trafficking’.
GW Pharmaceuticals have recently taken over British Sugar’s 18-Hectare glasshouse in Norfolk and are currently attempting to patent strains of medicinal marijuana. The suspected UK Cannabis Boom may lead to untold medical, economic and social outcomes for the state which will undoubtedly have a knock on effect on Ireland’s legislative stalemate. As major and pharmaceutical companies and start-ups, such GreenLightMedicines, continue to put pressure on the Irish government reform has become an unavoidable outcome.