Ireland will likely start the process of legalizing recreational cannabis within four years, according to a prominent politician.
Solidarity-People Before Profit TD (Teachta Dála), Gino Kenny said the debate “needs to happen,”. Kenny said he is focused on ensuring that his Cannabis for Medicinal Use Regulation Bill, moving through the Jail, wins passage.
“The debate for legalizing recreational cannabis is different from the one for medicinal cannabis, even though the two usually get conflated,” Kenny said. “But I think it’s another debate that needs to happen in Ireland, and I think it’ll happen eventually.”
“It’s moving very slowly at the moment, but it’s inevitable that it’s going to happen here in the next three or four years,” Kenny told Dublin Live.
Kenny, the Dublin Mid-West TD, called on the Irish government to stop causing problems for patients who want to access cannabis as a vital medical treatment.
Kenny has been supportive of seven-year-old Ava Barry since meeting her in May 2016 and expressed relief that she will now be allowed to use medical cannabis. Ava uses the herb to alleviate symptoms of Dravet syndrome, a severe form of epilepsy. Dravet Syndrome is a rare genetic brain condition that caused Ava to have upwards of 20 seizures per day. Ava’s family had previously been medical marijuana refugees when they felt like they had no choice but to move to the Netherlands to access treatment from a neurologist. Last month, Health Minister Simon Harris announced that he would grant her family a license to use medical marijuana.
In Ireland, medical marijuana is incredibly hard to access, requiring the referral of a doctor and approval directly from the Minister of Health. Ava is only the third patient to receive approval.
“It’s obviously great news for the family to see their exile is finally coming to an end,” Kenny told Dublin Live.
He believes that medical marijuana should be treated no differently than any other medication and that those suffering from illnesses should not be made to feel as if they exist on the fringes. The extent that Ava’s family had to go has shown the extent of the flaws in Ireland’s marijuana laws and has ignited widespread support for debate.
According to Professor Mike Barnes of the University of Newcastle, the benefits of cannabis outweigh any risks. Irish medical marijuana patients should not be treated as criminals.
“There is good evidence now that it helps, for example, chronic pain, anxiety and nausea and vomiting after chemotherapy,” Professor Barnes told the Irish Examiner. “There is a lot of evidence now that it is useful for all those conditions and at the moment there are tens of thousands of people who are using it illegally,”
Kenny admits his Cannabis for Medicinal Use Regulation Bill is moving through the Dail at a slow pace. But he said that despite that, the bill has helped to shape the argument over cannabis in Ireland for the past 18 months.
The proposed bill would regulate marijuana for medical use, and establish a governmental regulatory authority. Kenny believes the stigma of cannabis being reduced in Ireland is ultimately the first step towards recreational weed.