Health Committee throws out medicinal cannabis bill

The TD behind the bill says he is "outraged" at the timing and manner of the announcement

The Oireachtas Health Committee has thrown out a bill proposing to legalise cannabis for medicinal use. 

According to the committee report released today, the bill poses “major legal issues, unintended policy consequences and a lack of safeguards against harmful use of cannabis by patients.” 

The committee claimed the bill required too many amendments – insisting it could act as a Trojan horse on the road to the full legalisation of the drug. 

Health Committee member Kate O’Connell revealed the contents of the report on The Pat Kenny Show this morning.

However, Gino Kenny the People Before Profit TD behind the bill has said he is “outraged” at the decision - adding that it is “totally unacceptable” that the first he heard of it was on Newstalk today.

"It shows a huge amount of disrespect from the committee and from Kate O’Connell that the findings of their report should be leaked on national radio like this," he said.

He warned that the legislation was never aimed at the full legalisation of cannabis – and took issue with the timing of the report’s release:

“There was pre-legislative scrutiny,” he said. “That finished in April and since then I have been asking the Health Committee can they produce the report.”

“Now they produce it two days before the Dáil finishes – and that is deliberate, that is really deliberate.”

The bill originally passed the Dáil in December – but has been stalled at the Health Committee ever since.

Medicinal cannabis

Today’s report will come as blow to campaigners who have been calling for the legislation to be treated as a matter of urgency – including Cork mother Vera Twomey, whose daughter Ava requires medicinal cannabis treatment for Dravet Syndrome - a severe form of epilepsy. 

Ava has since traveled to the Netherlands to take up treatment.

The Health Minister Simon Harris has established a "Compassionate Access Programme" for cannabis - however Deputy Kenny has labeled the scheme “hugely restrictive and totally unworkable.”

In January a survey of Irish doctors found that a substantial majority of Irish family doctors support the legalisation of cannabis for medicinal use.

Expert opinion

Deputy Kenny said it is “shocking” that the Health Committee had failed to call in experts from other jurisdictions that he had put forward to give testimony.

He claimed there had been “a very nasty and coordinated campaign” waged against the bill since it was introduced. 

“There has been almost zero objective analysis of the evidence, particularly around the medicinal cannabis scientific literature, which backs up the rationale for the bill,” he said. 

He has insisted the legislation is not dead and pledged to return it to the Dáil agenda as soon as possible.

Harmful effects

Deputy O’Connell warned that “cannabis has many psychoactive effects which are potentially harmful,” adding that it is “not possible to regulate the whole plant extract of a plant which has over 100 varieties and several hundred components.”

“While the Committee said it appreciated the aim of the Bill - which claimed to be about alleviating suffering - aspects of the Bill caused them huge concern as to how it would be implemented in a careful way,” she said.

“The Committee members found the Bill to be as much about decriminalising the use of cannabis as it is about promoting it for medicinal use.”

She said the committee’s primary role is to safeguard the public, adding that she believes today’s report “does just that.”

You can listen back to Deputy O'Connell's appearance on The Pat Kenny Show here: