Press Release

Statement on Medicinal Cannabis Bill

The Minister for Health Simon Harris has today (Wednesday) reiterated his commitment to reviewing policy on medicinal cannabis in Ireland following an examination by the Health Products Regulatory Authority which is due to conclude by end-January 2017.  Minister Harris was commenting in light of the Cannabis for Medicinal Use Regulation Bill 2016 which is currently before the Dail.

Minister Harris said “I have been very clear that I want to see policy in this area reviewed.  I share the concerns of patients who believe that cannabis should be a treatment option for certain medical conditions and I recognise the urgency and worry they feel.

“I am anxious to proceed as quickly as possible, however, it is important that we have expert advice to underpin decisions on how best to move forward.  That is why I have asked the Health Products Regulatory Authority to provide me with the scientific and clinical advice necessary for me to consider amendments to the current statutory controls on medicinal cannabis.  I expect to receive their recommendations by the end of January 2017.  I would like to recognise that the Joint Committee on Health is also considering this matter.

“Yesterday, I met with Deputy Gino Kenny and Deputy Richard Boyd Barrett to discuss areas of agreement and also to express some concerns I have with the Bill.  In particular it includes removing references to cannabis from the Misuse of Drugs Act which has the effect of making it legal for anyone to possess cannabis, including for recreational purposes.  It also proposes establishing two new agencies but the appropriate agency to oversee any change to the regulatory regime for medicinal cannabis already exists in the form of the HRPA.  I understand from my meeting with the Deputies yesterday that they are cognisant of the unintended consequences that could flow from these aspects of the Bill and are willing to make amendments in this regard.

“However, on the central objective of the Bill, access to medicinal cannabis products, I accept the Deputies’ bona fides, share their desire to make progress on this matter and it is clear there is much common ground on this across the Oireachtas.  Therefore, while there are elements of the Bill I do not and will not support, I don’t wish to divide the Dail on this issue and will not oppose the Bill at Second Stage.

“As the Minister for Health, I have to make decisions based on the best clinical advice and for that reason, and the reasons set out above, I have to stress the importance of receiving the recommendations of the HPRA before the Bill would move on to the legislative scrutiny stage at Committee.  It is my hope that the work of the HPRA, the work of the Oireachtas Committee and the progression of this Bill will dovetail so that we can arrive at the right solution in the best interests of patients.”
Ends