A new study has found that a majority of Irish general practitioners are in favor of Ireland legally allowing access to cannabis for medical purposes.
Over 60 percent of Irish doctors acknowledge cannabis’ therapeutic properties and 58.6 percent support the legalization of medical marijuana, according to a new survey by the Irish College of General Practitioners (ICGP). The study, published January 13 in the Harm Reduction Journal, surveyed 565 doctors throughout Ireland in early 2016.
Medical cannabis remains illegal under Ireland’s Misuse of Drugs Act 1977 to 2016. Marijuana is classified as a Class B drug, punishable by five years in prison. However, support for legalization among the Irish population is dominating, as a recent poll found that over 90 percent of people in Ireland are in favor of making cannabis legal for medical purposes.
The study’s head author, Dr. Des Crowley of the Irish College of General Practitioners, told News Talk that he expects Ireland to legalize medical cannabis “within the next two years.”
“I think that we will see it probably in the next 12 to 24 months,” Crowley said. “I think that then brings up the issue of the training of GPs, information and how that gets legislated for.”
Recently legislative developments indicate that a significant change in policy is on the horizon. Ireland’s lower house passed a bill in December that would legalize cannabis products for several conditions and symptoms, including cancer, multiple sclerosis, fibromyalgia, and pain relief.
The bill has been passed to the Dáil’s committee stage where regulators will advise health minister Simon Harris on the scientific and clinical properties of cannabis. Harris has said he will need to edit the bill to prevent it from accidentally also legalizing recreational use.
Cannabis products can be prescribed in limited circumstances provided the Minister of Health grants a license. Just last month, a three-year-old diagnosed with a severe form of epilepsy became the first person given special permission by the Minister of Health to use cannabis. Irish six-year-old Ava Barry, diagnosed with a seizure disorder called Dravet syndrome, is campaigning for access to cannabidiol (CBD), a chemical compound found in both hemp and marijuana. Her mother started an online petition.
“The finding of majority support for [cannabis for therapeutic purposes] among Irish GPs in this study underpins and supports the proposed legislative changes that are presently being considered by the Irish parliament,” Crowley wrote in the study’s conclusion.
The same survey also found, however, that a majority of doctors are not in support of legalizing marijuana for recreational use. Claiming they were concerned about the potential effects on mental health, 56.8 percent of doctors did not support decriminalization. Just two in five male GPs were found to support recreational legalization, compared to 15 percent of female doctors.
You can read the entire study, “Irish general practitioner attitudes toward decriminalization and medical use of cannabis: results from a national survey,” via the Harm Reduction Journal website.
Learn more about the studies done examining the therapeutic properties of cannabis by visiting our education page.