HEALTH MINISTER Simon Harris today signed legislation which will allow Irish citizens access to cannabis-based products for medical use on a pilot basis for five years.
The Medical Cannabis Access Programme allows medical consultants to prescribe medicinal cannabis of a standardised quality to patients who have failed to respond to standard treatments.
Minister Harris first proposed the programme two years ago, but its passage through the Dáil was delayed amid problems finding a quality-assured supplier of medicinal cannabis able to export its products to Ireland.
Earlier this year, it was confirmed that a supplier had been identified and the legislation was finally signed this morning.
The new scheme will facilitate access to medical cannabis for patients with the following conditions if they have failed to respond to standard treatments:
- Spasticity associated with multiple sclerosis
- Intractable nausea and vomiting associated with chemotherapy
- Severe, refractory (treatment-resistant) epilepsy
Commenting on the launch today, Mr Harris said: "It is important to state that there are no plans to legalise cannabis in this country.
"The purpose of this programme is to facilitate compassionate access to cannabis for medical reasons, where conventional treatment has failed.
"Ultimately it will be the decision of the medical consultant, in consultation with their patient, to prescribe a particular treatment, including a cannabis-based treatment, for a patient under their care."
Previously, there were no medical cannabis products available in Ireland and many sufferers were forced to spend thousands each year to access cannabis-based treatments in countries such as the Netherlands.
The new legislation means that commercial operators whose cannabis products meet the specified requirements will be able to supply products to the Irish market.
The Medical Cannabis Access Programme will operate on a pilot basis for five years before a review in 2024.