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Developments in legalising medicinal cannabis

AUTHOR(S): Rebecca Ryan
DATE: 02.01.2014

The use of cannabis in all forms is strictly prohibited in Ireland.

Cannabis Regulation Bill 2013

On November 6 2013 independent Member of Parliament Luke Flanagan presented the Cannabis Regulation Bill 2013 in Parliament. The bill set out a draft framework for the regulation of cannabis for medicinal and recreational use. The bill was debated and defeated by the majority (11 votes against and eight votes in favour).

If the bill had passed, it would have allowed for home cultivation of up to six cannabis plants and personal possession of up to one ounce of cannabis. The bill also provided for the creation of cannabis social clubs, allowing up to 50 members to cultivate up to 300 plants for not-for-profit use. The tax revenue from cannabis would have been used to fund drug addiction services, medical research and juvenile education courses on drugs.

The bill proposed to establish the Cannabis Regulation Authority in order to develop and maintain a regulatory framework for the granting of licences for the cultivation, wholesale and retail of cannabis or cannabis-infused products. A medicinal cannabis retail licence was to be granted to pharmacies permitting the sale of cannabis and cannabis-induced products for medicinal purposes. The bill provided for the Cannabis Research Institute to carry out medical research and educate medical professionals, among others, on the use of cannabis.

Regulations in respect of labelling, advertising and marketing of cannabis and cannabis-infused products were included in the bill, together with details of offences and penalties for unlicensed cultivation, and the sale and possession of unlicensed cannabis products.

Regulations to allow medicinal cannabis

Notwithstanding the bill's defeat in the Dáil, the Irish government has published a consultation paper on the Draft Misuse of Drugs (Amendment) Regulations, which will allow for a newly authorised medicinal product containing cannabis extract to be prescribed, supplied and used by patients. In August 2013 the government sought input from stakeholders and interested parties on the draft regulations.

The consultation paper proposes to amend anti-drug laws to exclude specific medicinal products containing cannabis, while maintaining controls on cannabis in line with government policy. Specifically, the draft regulations refer to a product called Sativex (nabiximols), a cannabis-based oral spray that has been authorised in other EU member states for the relief of symptoms of spasticity in patients with multiple sclerosis.

While no date has been set for implementation of the draft regulations, the Irish Medicines Board has received a market authorisation application from a pharmaceutical company for Sativex and has recommended approval of the medicinal product for the Irish market.

For further information please contact Rebecca Ryan at Matheson by telephone (+353 1 232 2000), fax (+353 1 232 3333) or email

This article first appeared in ILO Healthcare newsletter on 12 February 2014.


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