Written Answers. - Medical Research.

Tony Gregory

Question:

565 Mr. Gregory asked the Minister for Health and Children his views on the editorial statement in the journal of the Irish College of General Practitioners that it is appropriate to conduct research into the possible medical uses of cannabis (details supplied). [1596/99]

Cannabis is a Schedule 1 controlled drug under the Misuse of Drugs Acts, 1977 and 1984. It is also one of the controlled drugs which has been designated for the purposes of section 13 of the Misuse of Drugs Act, 1977.

The nature of the controls provided in this manner are those which, according to the current UN conventions on narcotic drugs and psychotropic substances, must be applied to substances, such as cannabis and cannabis resin, for which there is no current recognised medical or scientific use. Under these laws, the manufacture, possession, supply, and prescription of the drug are prohibited, except under licence from the Minister for Health and Children.
By virtue of the designation under section 13 of the Act, licences may be granted only for the purpose of research, forensic analysis, or in respect of the use of the drug as an essential intermediate or starting material in an industrial manufacturing process. Licences may also be granted in the case of certain low tetrahydrocannabinol plant varieties of cannabis for the growing of hemp. Furthermore, the Minister must be satisfied in regard to the scientific or medical justification offered in support of the grant of any licence involving any of the designated controlled drug such as cannabis.
I am aware that claims are being made in respect of cannabis about the possible benefits for patients suffering from certain conditions such as multiple sclerosis and glaucoma. However, these medical claims are not currently supported by the results of recognised medical research.
If, however, an application were to be made to me for a licence under the Misuse of Drugs Acts, 1977 and 1984, and the orders and regulations made thereunder, which proposed the conduct of research into the therapeutic use of cannabis, in circumstances where the approval of the Irish Medicines Board under the Control of Clinical Trials Act, 1987 were to be forthcoming and which would be likely to obtain the necessary approval of the appropriate ethical committee under that Act, I would be prepared to give serious consideration to the grant of the required licences(s) under the Misuse of Drugs Acts.