Medicinal cannabis campaigner Vera Twomey has said she was "devastated" to read comments from doctors in Monday's Irish Times criticising "the one-sided debate on cannabis".
A group of doctors who are to campaign against the liberalisation of cannabis law say Ireland is “sleepwalking” into the legalisation of the drug on the back of a campaign of misinformation. They said they are treating ever-growing numbers of patients suffering a range of side-effects caused by the drug.
Ms Twomey said she had to fight for two years to get medicinal cannabis for her daughter, Ava Barry, who has severe epilepsy.
“She’s at school today, she’s thriving, she hasn’t been admitted to hospital in two years. Now she’s having a life free of pain,” she told RTÉ’s Today with Seán O’Rourke.
People Before Profit TD Gino Kenny, who drafted the Cannabis for Medicinal Use Bill, said the letter from the doctors was “extraordinary” and some of the language used was “an insult” to those campaigning for medicinal cannabis.
He said he agreed with concern expressed about corporations getting involved in the production and sale of medicinal cannabis, which he said a State company should be responsible for.
“Prohibition has failed. Let’s control and regulate and take it out of the hands of unscrupulous dealers,” Mr Kenny said.
Veteran anti-drugs campaigner Gráinne Kenny said she was “blue in the face” from writing to politicians on the issue but was generally ignored.
“There are votes in it, so it’s about being popular,” said Ms Kenny, honorary president of Europe Against Drugs (Eurad). She said the public attitude was one of “absolute acceptance”, driven by a sentiment that “sure, everyone is doing it”.
“And yet we don’t know the long-term effects of this drug. We don’t know if it’s going to be another thalidomide,” she said, adding that cannabis had become much stronger since she began advocating in the mid-1970s.
Cathal Ó Súilliobháin, a doctor working in addiction for 25 years, said the increased potency issue showed the need for decriminalisation.
“The reason some cannabis has high THC [the psychoactive ingredient in the plant] is because criminals are growing it,” he said. “It should be regulated by the Government, as with alcohol.”
He said medicinal cannabis, while not a panacea, has benefits for some patients with pain, sleep and anxiety issues, as well as for conditions such as epilepsy.
However, Dr Ó Súilliobháin said that no adolescents should be using any drug including cannabis and that he sees young people presenting with cannabis-use issues in his work.
“However, their primary problems are usually family and/or mental health issues. The lack of mental health services for young people in Ireland is the real issue,” he said.