Cannabis Bill contains no safeguards against harmful use by patients- O’Connell

-   Kate O'Connell, TD

A report from the health committee has today recommended that the Cannabis for Medicinal Use Regulation Bill 2016 should not proceed to committee stage.

Scrutiny of the Bill uncovered major legal issues, unintended policy consequences and a lack of safeguards against harmful use of cannabis by patients.

The Bill recommended establishing a Cannabis Regulatory Authority to regulate the sale of medicinal cannabis

Fine Gael TD for Dublin Bay South, Kate O’Connell, said: “We already have an excellent medicine regulatory authority in the Health Products Regulatory Authority (HPRA), so the idea that a Cannabis Regulatory Authority would be established- is completely unnecessary, and would duplicate the functions of the HPRA.”

Deputy O’Connell, who is also a member of the Oireachtas Health Committee, added: “There are no references in the Bill regarding the medical indications for cannabis certification by a doctor.”

While the Committee said it appreciated the aim of the Bill, which claimed to be about alleviating suffering, aspects of the Bill caused them huge concern as to how it would be implemented in a careful way.

The Committee members found the Bill to be as much about decriminalising the use of cannabis as it is about promoting it for medicinal use.

Deputy O’Connell said: “When we authorise medicines we need to make sure they are of a high quality, are safe and are effective – and that their effects are measurable and quantifiable.

“As such, you could say that this was an opportunity lost to make cannabis widely available as a medicinal product.

“Already we have the Compassionate Access Programme which recommended the introduction of a monitored treatment programme for certain medical conditions, when the patient is under the care of an Irish registered consultant. There is a pathway to access established.

“Cannabis has many psychoactive effects which are potentially harmful.

“Yes, there are embedded cannabinoids in the plant, which act on the endocannabinoid system in humans and have medicinal properties- however whole plants also contain many other chemicals which are psychoactive and potentially harmful.

“There are numerous varieties of cannabis plants and there are a multiplicity of components.

“It is not possible to regulate the whole plant extract of a plant which has over 100 varieties and several hundred components. Even something as basic as how we might label this product is unclear.

“Our primary role as legislators is to safeguard the public. I believe today’s report does just that”, Deputy O’Connell said.

ENDS

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