By Brian Houlihan
In early December it was announced by the Minister for Health Simon Harris that the Health Products Regulatory Authority would undertake a review of medical cannabis. The request came following a debate which was initiated by Gino Kenny’s medicinal cannabis bill (which we assisted with) which is currently going through the parliament.
Simon Harris requested that the HPRA report back to him by the end of January to assist him with deciding the future of medical cannabis. Since then Help Not Harm have worked with the HPRA by arranging interviews with individuals from the medical cannabis industry around the world. The HPRA were also present at our recent medical cannabis event in Dublin entitled ‘The Road To Regulation’.
Through these meetings and events Help Not Harm have been able to inform the HPPA on the various types of medical cannabis products available and also the various governmental policy models in action across the globe.
Numerous products from traditional herbal cannabis to the latest naval spray delivery systems have been highlighted. The pro’s and con’s of governmental policy in the USA/Canada, the EU, Australia and elsewhere have also been raised.
To date it certainly seems that the HPRA have been engaging with the topics we’ve raised and have been appreciative of our assistance. Ultimately we are unaware of the content of the upcoming report and what it may state. However, we feel we have at least contributed to broadening the discussions beyond what they may have been.
It’s worth noting that Minister Harris has stated he will act immediately if the HPRA review approves medical cannabis.
However, the perceived inaction to date has led to many becoming frustrated. Arguably this is very understandable given this is a life and death situation for some. Among those annoyed at the slowness and confusion around the process is Vera Twomey, a mother who is fighting for access to medical cannabis for her daughter.
On the same day as our event, following her own private meeting with the HPRA, Vera Twomey stood outside the parliament demanding a meeting with Simon Harris. Having failed to secure a meeting Vera confronted the Minister in Cork the following day while he was visiting a hospital. An exchange which featured on the news later that evening.
Part of the frustration Vera and others feel relates to the confusion around getting access to cannabis via a ministerial order/exemption (or a similar process) as seemingly has happened to young Tristan in Cork. Despite this recent good news confusion appears to be widespread among the health community with various patients getting different advice off GP’s, specialists, the HPRA and others.
The HPRA report due at the end of the month will hopefully offer some clarity on this and other vital issues. We have scheduled more meetings for the HPRA ahead of their deadline and will continue to press for wide scale reforms to medical cannabis policy.
Brian Houlihan is a Director of Help Not Harm which seeks to shift the emphasis of Irish drug policy from criminal justice to public health.