A new survey has found a substantial majority of Irish family doctors support the legalisation of cannabis for medicinal use.
However, according to the same survey, more than half of Irish GPs do not support the decriminalisation of the drug for recreational use.
Over 60% of the doctors surveyed agreed that cannabis can have a role in palliative care, pain management and the treatment of multiple sclerosis (MS) - with 58.6% coming out in support of the legalisation of the drug for medicinal use.
Dr Des Crowley from the Irish College of General Practitioners said he believes efforts to legalise the drug for therapeutic use could get underway within the next two years.
“I think that we will see it probably in the next 12 to 24 months,” he said. “I think that then brings up the issue of the training of GPs, information and how that gets legislated for.”
“What you don’t want is for the medical use of cannabis to cause an increase in the illicit use of cannabis.”
The survey examined the opinions of 565 doctors around the country.
The doctors raised concerns about the effects of the recreational use of cannabis on mental health and 56.8% of those surveyed did not support the general decriminalisation of the drug.
Over 80% of both genders supported the view that cannabis use has a significant effect on patients' mental health and 77.3% believe it increases the risk of schizophrenia.
A significantly higher proportion of male doctors supported a policy of decriminalisation than their female colleagues.
However, a higher proportion of doctors who have undergone specialist training with addiction believe that cannabis should be decriminalised.
Medicinal Cannabis Bill
A bill making cannabis available in Ireland for medicinal use put forward by AAA / PBP TD Gino Kenny has made it to the committee stage in the Oireachtas after the government chose not to oppose it.
Health Minister, Simon Harris is awaiting a response from the Health Products Regulatory Authority to advise him on the scientific and clinical value of cannabis as a medicine before allowing the legislation to progress any further.
He did however suggest that the current bill would have to amended in order to avoid the potential unintended effect of legalising the drug for recreational use.