I am slightly disappointed that the Minister for Health, Deputy Harris, is not here to answer the questions I have been trying to raise in the Dáil for at least a year.
Two years ago the Health Products Regulatory Authority, HPRA, produced a report entitled Cannabis for Medical Use - A Scientific Review. I argue that the review was fast-tracked due to Vera Twomey's fight for access to medicinal cannabis for her daughter. In the two years since the report's publication nothing has been done. We were critical of the report because of its limitations, its conservatism and its stipulation that medicinal cannabis should only be used in the treatment of three conditions. Incredibly a major omission from the report related to chronic pain. The greatest efficacy for medicinal cannabis is for chronic pain.
The report was published two years ago and we still have no cannabis, no access and no programme. Parents and patients are forced to go abroad and forced to break the law which is completely unsustainable. Parents have run out of options. They have tried everything clinically, but they have to leave the jurisdiction to obtain this medication. The Government has failed them.
The Minister for Health has come out with the mantra that it is a supply issue, but it is not a supply issue. I do not find that a credible response. This comes from institutionalised resistance by the HSE, the Department of Health, the HPRA, the Government and some in the medical profession.
After waiting for two years, the people want meaningful progress on the issue. Just before Christmas, Thailand, which has one of the most extreme anti-drug laws, passed legislation on the legalisation of medicinal cannabis. It has also happened in Mexico and other countries. Six months ago Britain had no policy on the matter and the Tory Government has changed even though it is extremely restrictive.
In this country we have issued 13 licences to 13 individuals over two years. I have been extremely critical of that licensing system. It is extremely bureaucratic and cumbersome. Most of the time people going to their doctor or specialist have a negative experience. The specialists claim they do not have enough information about it and so forth. That licensing system is not workable.
If the patient is granted a licence, there is no guarantee that they will be reimbursed and in addition they have to go abroad to get the medication. Therefore we are sending the patient to, in particular, the Netherlands to get the medication and bring it back. The medical profession, the public and the vast majority of Deputies will say that is not sustainable. I keep going on about this issue because of the injustice of normal parents seeking the best for their children having to go abroad and break the law which is unacceptable.