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Ireland to Legalize Cannabis for Several Medical Conditions

Ireland’s Minister of Health announced that the government would soon legalize medical cannabis use for a limited number of conditions.

Cannabis will soon be legally available to treat a limited number of medical conditions, according to The Irish Times. While a commissioned report from Ireland’s Health Products Regulatory Authority (HPRA) acknowledged a relative lack of scientific evidence, the country’s Minister for Health, Simon Harris, still gave the green light for marijuana to be used for medical purposes.

The HPRA report concluded that cannabis has potential therapeutic benefits and recommended that the substance be made available for patients diagnosed with specific medical conditions, including multiple sclerosis, intractable nausea and vomiting associated with chemotherapy, and refractory or treatment-resistant epilepsy.

“I believe this report marks a significant milestone in developing policy in this area,” Harris told The Guardian. “This is something I am eager to progress but I am also obligated to proceed on the basis of the best clinical advice.”

Harris had requested the HPRA examine the available evidence of the therapeutic effects and medical use of cannabis last November. The minister also asked for information on medical marijuana schemes already implemented by other countries.

According to The Guardian, Harris is currently considering law changes necessary for setting up “a compassionate access programme for cannabis-based treatments.” He’s hoping that the scheme will run for five years and expects it to be closely monitored by health service officials.

Recent studies and surveys have shown that 92 percent of the Irish population and over 60 percent of Irish doctors support the legalization of medical marijuana.

As of right now, cannabis can be prescribed in limited circumstances provided Harris grants a license. Last January, a three-year-old with severe epilepsy became the first person awarded special permission by the health minister.

Ireland’s lower house did pass a bill in December that would allow for medical marijuana to be used by patients diagnosed with cancer, multiple sclerosis, and fibromyalgia, and to relieve pain. The bill has since been passed to the Dáil’s committee stage where regulators were set to advise Harris on the scientific and clinical properties of cannabis. Whether Harris will pursue implementing that specific bill is unknown.

The report from HPRA did point out “an absence of scientific data demonstrating the effectiveness of cannabis products.” It also warned that there was a lack of information on the safety of long-term use.

“The scientific evidence supporting the effectiveness of cannabis across a large range of medical conditions is in general poor, and often conflicting,” the report reads. “Cannabis has potential therapeutic benefits but these need to be better defined through clinical research.”

Chairman of the HPRA, professor Tony O’Brien, said that despite the lack of volume of evidence, he “was pleased to cautiously advise” for the use of cannabis for a small number of medical conditions.

You can read the entire HPRA report, “Cannabis for Medical Use – A Scientific Review,” here.

Learn about the research that has been done on the medical potential of cannabis by visiting our education page.