Bill to legalise cannabis for medical use being stalled, claims TD

Gino Kenny says legal advice needed to push Bill to help patients with certain symptoms

Margaret McElligott from  Kilflynn, Co Kerry, with her 16-year-old girl, Tina, who is the world’s oldest sufferer of a rare genetic condition Alpers Syndrome. Photograph: Domnick Walsh

Margaret McElligott from Kilflynn, Co Kerry, with her 16-year-old girl, Tina, who is the world’s oldest sufferer of a rare genetic condition Alpers Syndrome. Photograph: Domnick Walsh

 

An opposition Bill which would legalise cannabis for medical use is being “run into the ground” by Government, the TD behind it has warned.

Gino Kenny, of the Solidarity-People Before Profit Alliance, said it was now “urgent” that his Cannabis for Medicinal Use Regulation Bill 2016 – which passed first and second stages in the Dáil in December – progress to committee stage.

It should be examined by the Oireachtas Health Committee, part of which would involve a presentation by the Parliamentary Legal Adviser. If recommended by the committee, the Bill would then be sent back to the Dáil for final stage amendments and a vote.

“It is now imperative that the committee gets sight of the legal advice to progress it,” said Mr Kenny. “It hasn’t moved since December. It’s becoming clear that it’s being dragged out to the point where the Government is effectively closing it down. With the summer recess due to begin on July 13th or 20th, well they are running the clock down.”

In February, Minister for Health Simon Harris announced he would implement a Health Products Regulatory Authority recommendation that cannabis-based products be made available to some patients with multiple sclerosis and epilepsy, and those suffering nausea during chemotherapy.

Medical discrimination

Mr Kenny says, however, this would be too restrictive a regime and amount to “medical discrimination” against patients who would still have to do without, or travel for, such treatment.

The TD spoke on Wednesday after two families recently brought their children abroad to access medicinal cannabis.

Vera Twomey-Barry, from Aghabullogue, Co Cork, travelled to the Netherlands over the weekend, with her husband Paul Barry, to access cannabidiol (CBD) and tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) treatment, under medical supervision for their daughter Ava (8).

Vera Twomey-Barry from Aghabullogue. Co Cork, and her daughter,/ Ava, who suffers from Dravet’s Syndrome. Photograph: Daragh Mc Sweeney/Provision
Vera Twomey-Barry from Aghabullogue. Co Cork, and her daughter,/ Ava, who suffers from Dravet’s Syndrome. Photograph: Daragh Mc Sweeney/Provision

Ava has Dravet syndrome, a rare genetic epileptic condition which sees her having numerous seizures daily. Though they can access CBD oil in Ireland, THC oil – the part of the cannabis plant that produces the “high” – is illegal here.

Ms Twomey walked from Cork to Dublin in March to highlight her campaign for medicinal cannabis for Ava. In April, she was stopped at Dublin Airport having arrived back from Spain with prescription THC. The oil was seized. She says she has been “driven” to take Ava out of Ireland for treatment.

Gravely ill child

“Our objective will be to return to Ireland as soon as we can. It depends how soon Ava is established on a course of treatment. We were driven to leave Ireland, which seems illogical to me – that a gravely ill child should have to travel to get treatment.”

Margaret McElligott, from Kilflynn, Co Kerry, has just returned from Barcelona, Spain, with her daughter Tina (16), whom she had brought to access medicinal cannabis to treat her Alpers syndrome. The condition, diagnosed in April 2016, is progressive neurologic disorder which in Tina’s case could mean up to 20 seizures a day.

It is for families like these, says Mr Kenny, that he is calling on the Government to “urgently” ensure his Bill moves through its final stages before the summer recess.

A spokeswoman for the Department of Health declined to comment on the private members’ Bill, as it is not a Government Bill.