I have already addressed the absence of the Minister for Health who is out of the country. The Minister is working towards the introduction shortly of a cannabis for medical use access programme. While the arrangements to enable this programme to begin are being finalised, it is open to a registered medical practitioner to apply for a ministerial licence under the Misuse of Drugs Act 1977. Such a licence, if granted, enables a practitioner legally to prescribe medical cannabis for a named patient. It is important to note that the decision to prescribe such treatment is a clinical decision for the prescribing doctor. Until acceptable medical cannabis products are available for use in Ireland, patients who are the subject of a licence are obtaining their cannabis products from a pharmacy in the Hague. Under the policy of the Government of the Netherlands, cannabis oil products are not permitted to be commercially exported from that country. Notwithstanding the fact that such cannabis products might eventually be listed as products that may be accessed under an Irish programme, anyone who is prescribed these products will have to travel to the Hague to obtain them, unless the Dutch export barrier is removed.
The Minister for Health is aware that a UK company may provide a service which involves it collecting cannabis products from the Netherlands for persons authorised to use it under the UK's medical cannabis regime. While this company can import medical cannabis products into the UK from the Netherlands, the UK authorities do not currently allow re-export from the UK to other countries, including Ireland. I have been informed that the UK company may be acting as patients' nominated representative in the collection of their personally-prescribed medical cannabis products. No similar Irish entity is known to provide this service, but it is certainly open to any patient to engage a representative to act on his or her behalf.