Rules on legal cannabis medicines ‘advanced’, says White
Survey shows two thirds of people favour use of cannabis for medical reasons
The Government is at “quite an advanced stage in preparing regulations to allow for a very limited availability of cannabis for medical purposes”, Minister of State at the Department of Health Alex White has said. Photograph: Gareth Fuller/PA Wire
The Government is at “quite an advanced stage in preparing regulations to allow for a very limited availability of cannabis for medical purposes”, he said, adding its use would be restricted to a cannabinoid mouth spray.
“We have consulted widely with expert opinion and we have come to the conclusion that there is a case for limited availability,” he said, adding the Irish Medicines Board has received a market authorisation application from a pharmaceutical company for Sativex, a cannabis-based mouth spray.
The IMB has recommended the approval of the product for the Irish market.
“MS in particular is one of the prominent conditions in respect of which the availability of Sativex could be beneficial,” he said.
“We have to look at the legal framework for that and I would hope in the coming months to be in a position to introduce those regulations,” he said, adding there would be a public consultation process as part of that process.
Mr White made his comments at the launch of a report by the National Advisory Committee on Drugs and Alcohol on cannabis prevalence in Ireland which found two-thirds of people surveyed agreed cannabis use should be permitted for medical reasons.
The report found the percentage of people aged 15 to 64 who had used cannabis in their lifetime grew to just over a quarter of the population in the last survey, conducted between October 2010 and June 2011. This compared to 22 per cent who said they had used the drug at some point in their life in the 2006/07 survey.
The percentage of people who had used cannabis in their lifetime was highest among professionals, senior management and top civil servants, 35.1 per cent of who had used the drug in their lifetime.
That group was also most likely to have used the drug within the past year with just under 10 per cent having done so, followed by people who were “dependent on the State long-term” at 8 per cent.
The highest incidence of current use was recorded among those who were dependent on the State long-term, 5.2 per cent of who said they had used cannabis within the past month.
There has been a marked change in the type of cannabis in use in Ireland in the past four years. In 2007 53.8 per cent of cannabis used was hash, a figure which fell to 22.6 per cent in 2011. Conversely, the use of weed or cannabis herb jumped from just 8.4 per cent of the cannabis used in 2007 to 46.5 per cent in 2011.
The survey also indicated that more cannabis was being grown in Ireland than there was in the last survey period, with 38.3 per cent of current users saying they were using drugs grown in Ireland compared with 16.1 per cent four years earlier.
The survey of 5,134 people nationwide showed the percentage of people who had used cannabis in the past year had remained fairly consistent at 6 per cent. The percentage of people who had used cannabis within the past month was also relatively stable at 2.8 per cent.
It found that cannabis dependency stood at 0.6 per cent in the general population. Among recent users (those who have used cannabis within the past year) 9.2 per cent were cannabis-dependent.
Among those who had used cannabis within the past month, 13.9 per cent said they had taken the drug for 20 days or more, a marked drop on the last survey when that figure stood at 24.4 per cent.