The Oireachtas Health Committee has recommended that the Health Products Regulatory Authority (HPRA) ensure improved access to medicinal cannabis products.

In a report, published this month, the Houses of the Oireachtas Joint Committee on Health has evaluated medicinal cannabinoids, and, with medicinal cannabis legalisation imminent in the Republic of Ireland, made a range of expert recommendations.

Dr Michael Harty TD, who chaired the committee, prefaced the report with the following description:

This report offers background to the status of medicinal cannabis and cannabinoids and highlights both the risks and potential benefits of those products.

Although medicinal cannabinoids have the exciting potential to offer relief from a number of illnesses, there are also attendant risks which cannot be ignored.

It is the Committee’s view that Ireland should pursue a balanced course of action in considering the merits of authorising the use of medicinal cannabinoids, and the recommendations contained within this report are made in that spirit.

Enda Kenny (pictured) put forward the bill in Irish Parliament to legalise medicinal cannabis. (Wikimedia Commons)
Enda Kenny (pictured) helped sponsor the parliamentary bill to legalise medicinal cannabis. (Wikimedia Commons)

The recommendations of the report are as follows:

Recommendation 1:

The Committee considers it desirable to diminish the medical “grey area” wherein high content CBD products are legal, but are not medically mainstreamed due to their lack of HPRA medical product authorisation.

Recommendation 2:

More generally, regarding cannabis and cannabinoids other than CBD, including THC, the Committee recommends that the HPRA explores the feasibility and potential benefit of a framework for accessing such products, as experienced internationally and cited by the HPRA in their evidence to the Committee.

Recommendation 3:

Having noted in the course of its investigation that many of the obstacles to the safe provision of medicinal cannabis and cannabinoids arise from a. historical shortage of scientific research in the area, the Committee recommends that Ireland makes a commitment to the long term tracking of the health of users of CBD rich products, and any other cannabis or cannabinoid products which are made accessible, for research purposes, thereby taking advantage of an opportunity to contribute to the global store of medical knowledge of cannabinoids and the endocannabinoid system.

Recommendation 4:

The Committee also recommends that methods of usage of medicinal cannabis (for example, vaporising, tea, oil, etc) be designed as part of the access framework with a view to optimising safety and efficacy for each particular condition. Furthermore, the Committee recommends that data on the safety of each method be collected and assessed over time.

Graham De Barra, Director of Help Not Harm said:

“The report by the Oireachtas Health Committee shows great promise for a well-crafted model for regulating cannabis. Most of all we welcome the OHC adopting Help Not Harm’s recommendation for covering medical cannabis-based products under the long-term illness scheme. This provision would help patients access their medicine for free. Ireland would be one of the first countries to adopt this model and it shows the potential for the government to become global leaders on this topic.”

The release of the report follows the Irish Government recently passing a bill to legalise cannabis for medicinal purposes without vote.

Calum Armstrong is Staff Writer and Editor at VolteFace. Tweets @vf_calum

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