Medicinal cannabis legislation passes second stage in Dáil

The bill on the drug's usage for medicinal purposes would allow doctors prescribe it to those with serious illnesses

Medicinal cannabis legislation has passed the second stage in Dáil and is on course to be legalised by Easter next year

It comes after the Government decided not to oppose the bill - put forward from People Before Profit TD, Gino Kenny - which would allow doctors to prescribe the drug to people with serious illnesses.

The Health Minister Simon Harris indicated he would not oppose the bill, but has suggested changes could be made before it's published.

The Independent Alliance was given a free vote on the issue.

Deputy Gino Kenny said regulation is the key.

"People are using cannabis anyway," he said. "They're buying it on the street or growing itself. And everything is open to abuse.

"A person that's prescribed any cannabis-based medicine, they're the only sole user of it."

People Before Profit said sick people should not be criminalised for using cannabis to relieve their symptoms.

Support

A survey found that over 90% of Irish people support the legalisation of the drug on medical grounds.

The research, conducted by Rec C and commissioned by non-profit health organisation Help Not Harm, shows that levels of support are highest in Munster counties at 94%.

“The people have compassion enough to provide necessary treatment for those who need it, it’s now up  to legislators to follow their lead”, Tom Curran, a Deputy Director of Help Not Harm said.

New families were most in agreement, with 92% agreeing with the legalisation of cannabis if recommended by a doctor. Rate of agreement declines with age, with 86% of 65+ year olds agreeing.

In response to the survey, the Department of Health said: "The Minister has committed to reviewing policy on medicinal cannabis. The Minister has asked the Health Products Regulatory Authority (HPRA) to provide expert advice on this issue."

Paige Figi's daughter Charlotte suffers a rare form of epilepsy brought on by Dravet Syndrome.

Speaking to Newstalk Drive, Paige says the use of medicinal cannabis has changed her child's life.

"The existing laws to keep this illegal... the only people that its helping is possibly a drugs company that wants to promote a drug," she suggested.

"The current laws help no one. Holding these laws back from being passed... it's fatal for many people".