The lower house of the Irish legislature, Dáil Éireann, met late into the night at Leinster House, Thursday, Dec. 1, to push forward the Cannabis For Medical Use Regulation Bill 2016.
Though only the first of many hurdles to come, the bill has progressed all the way to committee, making it the furthest supporters have been able to push a law that would offer wide protections for the community of cannabis patients in Ireland.
Under the proposed plan, medical cannabis could be legal in the Emerald Isle by Easter.
Colette Frawley-Bailey, a 61-year-old using medical cannabis to treat symptoms of her arteriovenous malformation, meaning abnormal connections between her veins and arteries cause her to get intense migraines that last for days up to six times a month. She told Cannabis Now she’s cautiously optimistic about the legislative progress being made.
“It was momentous in Irish history… unfortunately, medical marijuana has a long way to go before it is made legal in Ireland,” she said. “[But] so many people in Ireland want this that there really is no turning back.”
Access to medical cannabis in Ireland is currently restricted to those suffering from Multiple Sclerosis, and the only option available for prescription is GW Pharmaceutical’s well-known (and controversial) whole plant extract Sativex.
Frawley-Bailey, who was in attendance for Thursday’s evening legislative meeting, has become a kind of spokesperson for adult Irish cannabis patients, as much of the coverage has been focused on young people with serious conditions.
Despite the stigma around cannabis in the country, she’s been public about her plight, previously telling the Irish Times that she’s angry at the government’s interference in her healing.
“[I’m] horrified to know that there is a safe product out there that could turn my life around completely and my government will not allow me to have it,” she said. “If they suffered with this pain, or they had a child suffering with extreme pain or epileptic seizures they wouldn’t be slow about making it available.”
Dr. Amanda Reiman, the Drug Policy Alliance’s Marijuana Policy Manager, told Cannabis Now that the policy of declaring cannabis a Schedule I substance with no medicinal value appears even more absurd as Ireland gears up for medical decriminalization.
“Countries continue to sail past the U.S. with common sense marijuana policies, while we still insist cannabis has no medical value,” she said. “We’re starting to sound like the flat earth people!”
There are now two paths forward for medical cannabis in Ireland, one being the Health Minister and the other being the bill. Should the Health Minister not act in a timely fashion, supporters can fall back on the bill to move forward.
The outlook seems good: on Thursday night, most of the deputies who spoke gave the minister their vote of confidence.
The bill was put forward by Deputies Gino Kenny and Bríd Smith, both members of the Anti-Austerity Alliance Party known as People Before Profit. Each gave rousing speeches to the Dáil after a night of commendations, with all but one deputy starting their speeches with respects to Kenny for his efforts over the last five months to push the bill forward.
Smith, like most of her peers, gave Kenny rave reviews and said he may be the most popular deputy in the room these days from all the effort he put in.
She went on to eviscerate the gateway theory, after it was brought up by the night’s sole opposition, independent deputy Dr. Michael Harty
“When I was a young one I smoked cannabis, I still do occasionally, but I never got addicted,” she said. “What I could have got addicted to was tobacco, which killed my father and kills hundreds of people in this country every week.”
Over the course of the evening, the emotional impact of meeting some of Ireland’s sickest children was written on the faces of the entire room. But few spoke with the conviction of Deputy Michael Fitzmaurice as he spoke of the tortures of MS.
“We hear these stories, unless you got a heart like a stone it has to reflect in ya,” he said. “I’ve been clear: I’m not for having it on every corner. But for the people concerned here, it has to be sorted.”
Kenny closed the evening with promise for the future.
“I think it’s time for this house to act for the benefit of many people and I think it’s a very healthy day for democracy in Ireland,” he said.
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