Ireland Wants Medical Marijuana Now—And For Free!

Photo by Nico Escondido

Medical marijuana is moving along quickly in Ireland, but not quick enough for the national legislature. Lawmakers want legal cannabis in sick peoples’ hands “as soon as possible”—and they want the government to pick up the tab.

Multiple families have left Ireland for America in the past few years in order to access cannabis products like high CBD oil. Others, like Vera Twomey, have publicized the plight of children with intractable epilepsy who could benefit from cannabis but can’t get any. There is likely not an elected official in Ireland who hasn’t heard about Twomey’s six-year-old daughter Ava, the centerpiece of a campaign meant to shame lawmakers into taking action.

Shame works, because they have, and quickly: Democratic socialists from Dublin introduced a bill last year that has flown through the process, at least in comparison to how long it’s taken American lawmakers to get behind cannabis. In December, one bill sailed through Ireland’s lower house without a debate. That’s right: Controversy-free cannabis.

Now, Ireland’s Journal reports that the Health Committee in the Oireachtas, Ireland’s national lawmaking body, is recommending that state-funded medical cannabis “be made available to patients as speedily and as cost-effectively as possible.”

That doesn’t mean immediate seas of green in Europe’s famously verdant and viridescent sovereign country. It may not mean any cannabis plants at all. The Oireachtas committee is supporting only “certain cannabidiol products,” including the Colorado name-brand CBD product Charlotte’s Web, and GW Pharmaceuticals’ Epidiolex, the CBD prescription drug in clinical trials in the U.S.

THC may yet come to Ireland; it all depends on what another bureaucracy decides.

It’s up to the Health Products Regulatory Authority to determine what cannabis products are medicine. If it’s just CBD, the Oireachtas Health Committee says they should be made available as quickly as possible, with “the potential to make them free of charge” if a family will likely need the products to treat a chronic, long-term illness.

If the regulatory authority does determine THC is right and proper to be included in any medical marijuana product—a view consistent with anyone who gives credence to the “entourage effect” in cannabis—then THC levels should be regulated and limited so that there’s no potential for them to be used recreationally.

Lame? A bit, but consider: the other option isn’t to immediately and forever outlaw THC; it’s to gather more evidence and then revisit later.

In the meantime, Irish medical marijuana patients would be monitored long-term in order to contribute data “to the global store of medical knowledge” around cannabis. Which, if we’re serious about medical marijuana—and we should be—is a much better approach than throwing a bunch of weed at people and then making it so none of it can be studied (i.e., the American way).

Ireland’s move toward CBD follows the United Kingdom, where health authorities determined CBD to be legit medicine earlier this month. 

Including cannabis in the public option for healthcare, however, could make Ireland the envy of marijuana advocates across the world—and for any American with an Irish passport, could start encouraging reverse immigration. 

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