Irish government confirms launch of new medical cannabis access program

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Bethan Rose Jenkins, Cannabis News Writer/Editorial

Ireland’s Department of Health has revealed that it will permit the direct distribution of medical cannabis to patients residing in the European country.

Based on a new measure announced by the Department, a limited 2019 initiative that legalized medical cannabis in Ireland will be expanded upon.

Previously, as per the 2019 law, patients were required to travel to the Netherlands to procure their cannabis-based medicines. Due to the inconvenience(s) associated with making the 15-hour drive – or one-hour 40-minute flight – many Irish patients struggled to obtain treatment of this kind.

The Medical Cannabis Access Programme, established by the former Minister for Health, Simon Harris TD, was expected to operate for five years “on a pilot basis.” 

“They spoke about the stress of having to travel regularly and the associated health risks with that, as well as their concerns that they would run out of their medication,” said the Minister.

In particular, travel restrictions caused by the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic made it difficult for patients to source a steady supply of pharmaceutical-grade weed.

Temporary delivery service to be implemented permanently for medical cannabis patients in Ireland

During April of last year, a temporary cannabis delivery service was introduced in Ireland as a means of providing patients with a way to access medical cannabis amid coronavirus-related travel restrictions. The delivery system, which saw couriers transport medical cannabis to Ireland from the Netherlands, has since been adopted on a permanent basis.

The amendments to Ireland’s medical cannabis law were announced by Stephen Donnelly TD, the country’s Minister for Health. He says that the latest initiative was spurred on by discussions with patients who were experiencing difficulty in accessing cannabis-based medications during the pandemic.

Fortunately, the Minister says, those issues are merely “a thing of the past” now, since Irish patients will no longer need to venture abroad to access cannabis in its pharmaceutical form.

“Instead, they can focus on their health and wellbeing,” expressed the Minister. “The welfare of patients and their families comes first and I am happy to reassure them that they will no longer have to personally source their prescriptions.”

About Ireland’s Medical Cannabis Access Programme

Based on the terms of Ireland’s Medical Cannabis Access Programme, doctors can prescribe the drug legally for patients who are unresponsive to standard methods of treatment.

Multiple Sclerosis (MS), intractable nausea and vomiting associated with treatment-resistant chemotherapy are the three conditions that patients can qualify for under Ireland’s medical cannabis program.

Once the Department of Health has received an “appropriate application,” a license for medical cannabis can be granted. In order to be accepted, the application must first be endorsed by a consultant who is responsible for a patient’s management; e.g. monitoring the effects of cannabis-based therapies over a certain period of time.