The legalisation of cannabis for medical use has been backed by a public health body in the Republic of Ireland, despite the lack of evidence for the drug’s effectiveness and safety.
The drug, a Class B controlled substance in the UK, will be permitted for patients with epilepsy, intractable nausea and other illnesses.
Last week, the Republic of Ireland’s Health Products Regulatory Authority approved the scheme in the face of concerns in its own report that evidence failed to show that there was any benefit from using cannabis.
The Government-commissioned report said: “The scientific evidence supporting the effectiveness of cannabis across a large range of medical conditions is in general poor, and often conflicting.”
Despite these warnings, Professor Tony O’Brien, Chairman of the working group which compiled the report, said he was happy to “cautiously advise” for the restricted use of cannabis for medical use in a five year scheme.
Simon Harris, the Minister for Health in the Republic of Ireland, said the report marked “a significant milestone in developing policy in this area”.
Currently, the Cannabis for Medicinal Use Regulation Bill 2016 Bill states that cannabis for medical use “may only be sold on the certification of a registered medical practitioner, on a form approved by the Authority, that the patient has a condition for which a trial of cannabis or cannabis-based product is a reasonable course of treatment”.
The Bill is yet to go through all of its stages, but the Government has already stated that it will not oppose the legislation.
In the UK, the Government has rejected calls for cannabis to be made legal for medical reasons.
Last year, a report by the All Party Parliamentary Group on Drug Policy Reform claimed it had found evidence in favour of using cannabis in the treatment of certain conditions.
However, the Government argued that there is a “substantial body of scientific and medical evidence to show that cannabis is a harmful drug which can damage people’s mental and physical health”.
A spokesman for the Home Office said: “It is important that medicines are thoroughly trialled to ensure they meet rigorous standards before being placed on the market.
“There is a clear regime in place, administered by the Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency, to enable medicines, including those containing controlled drugs, to be developed.”
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