In 2016, an Irish toddler became the first legal medical cannabis patient in Ireland after his parent successfully acquired authorization from Minister of Health Simon Harris to utilize a cannabis oil to treat the two year-old’s epilepsy. Cannabis oil dramatically halted the child’s seizures, which occurred twenty times a day before using medicinal cannabis. That toddler first paved the way for other Irish patients to receive medical cannabis authorizations on a case-by-case basis, and now, less than three years later, pilot medical cannabis program has just been announced.

Under the five-year program, cannabis will first be imported and subject to approved by the federal government. After approval, cannabis will be available through pharmacies and covered by Ireland’s Health Services, just as any other medicine would be. Domestic production will be licensed over time. At the beginning of the program, patients must try other treatments first, and the only approved medical conditions are spasticity associated with multiple sclerosis, intractable nausea and vomiting associated with chemotherapy, and severe, refractory (treatment-resistant) epilepsy.

Minister of Health Harris, released a statement following the official launch of the pilot program:

Today is a significant milestone. For years, families have fought for this programme to be established and for years, we have faced many challenges, obstacles and hurdles. I am so pleased to be here today to advance this Programme and help the lives of many families across the country.

The purpose of this Programme is to facilitate compassionate access to cannabis for medical reasons, where conventional treatment has failed. It follows the clear pathway laid out by the Health Products Regulatory Authority in their expert report ‘Cannabis for Medical Use – A Scientific Review’.

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. It is important to state that there are no plans to legalise cannabis in this country.

With history as a guide, we can expect Ireland to open up its medical cannabis program within the next several years to cover more conditions, and allow healthcare professionals the option to prescribe cannabis as a first resort, instead of the last. As the truth about cannabis gets known, legalization for all adults could be just around the corner.

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