The Bill and the report
The Cannabis for Medicinal Use Regulation Bill 2016 passed through the Dáil on 1 December when the government chose not to oppose it.
The bill would allow for the legalisation of cannabis for medicinal purposes. It proposes the establishment of a Cannabis Regulation Authority which would manage and licence the sale of cannabis for medicinal use.
The bill also contains provisions for cannabis to be prescribed by general registered doctors and for cannabis to be removed from the Misuse of Drugs Act.
The Joint Health Committee report is strongly critical of the bill on multiple grounds.
It states that the establishment of a Cannabis Regulation Authority would undermine the current framework for regulation for medicine in Ireland. As things stand, new medicines are regulated by the Health Products Regulatory Authority (HPRA).
The report also criticises the provision around removing cannabis from the Misuse of Drugs Act, saying that this could have “unintended policy consequences” like decriminalising cannabis in non-medicinal circumstances.
It also says access to cannabis would be too loose under the bill, meaning that it could be potentially harmful for patients.
Finally, the committee notes that an approach is already being considered by government over medicinal cannabis under existing laws. A HPRA report published in January found that there was insufficient evidence for its benefits to prescribe cannabis generally.
The approach whereby cannabis could be prescribed by a medical consultant in a controlled and monitored manner for a limited number of clearly defined medical conditions is already being pursued by government.
The Joint Health Committee recommends that this approach be continued and that. It states that due to the large number of issues, the Solidarity People Before Profit Bill should not progress any further.