14 December 2020
By Elaine Murphy
Minister for Health to assist patients with access to prescribed medical cannabis products
The Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly has today announced that patients who are prescribed medical cannabis products will no longer need to travel to the Netherlands to collect their medication.
Prior to COVID-19 pandemic, patients or their family members travelled to the Netherlands to collect their medical cannabis prescriptions. Authorities in the Netherlands have forbidden the commercial export of cannabis oils but will allow the filling of individual prescriptions from EU states.
A delivery service from the Netherlands to Ireland to assist patients of licenced clinicians in obtaining their prescribed cannabis products was established in April 2020. This was on a temporary basis due to the COVID-19-related restrictions around travel. This will now be made permanent.
We spoke to Smoke Cartel, which is an online headshop in the US about what this might mean for Ireland and they said:
“This is a step in the right direction for Ireland. A family shouldn’t have to travel to a different country for their medicine just because it’s non-traditional. We hope this is the start of cannabis prescriptions being treated as medicine not a drug addiction.”
Here in Ireland, speaking today, Minister Donnelly said of the law change:
“Many patients and their families have shared stories with both me and officials in my Department about how this initiative has made a huge improvement to their lives. They spoke about the stress of having to travel regularly and the associated health risks with that, as well as their concerns that they would run out of their medication.
“I am so pleased that these problems will now be a thing of the past for them. There will no longer be a need for them to travel abroad in order to collect their prescribed cannabis products. Instead, they can focus on their health and wellbeing. The welfare of patients and their families comes first and I am happy to reassure them that they will no longer have to personally source their prescriptions.”
Officials in the Department of Health will finalise the arrangements in respect of how the collection and delivery service will work on a permanent basis into the future.
Ministerial licencing of medical cannabis
Doctors may utilise the ministerial licencing route to prescribe medical cannabis for their patients, should they wish to do so.
In line with the Chief Medical Officer’s advice, the granting of a licence for cannabis for medical purposes must be premised on an appropriate application being submitted to the Department of Health, which is endorsed by a consultant who is responsible for the management of the patient and who is prepared to monitor the effects of the treatment over time.
The majority of patients of licenced clinicians obtain their prescribed products Transvaal Pharmacy in the Hague in the Netherlands.
The medical decision to prescribe or not prescribe any treatment, including cannabis treatment, for an individual patient is strictly a decision for the treating clinician, in consultation with their patient. The Minister for Health has no role in this clinical decision-making process.
Since April 6th, the Department of Health has organised a number of collections from the Netherlands for patients of clinicians in possession of a ministerial licence under the Misuse of Drugs Act owing to the COVID-19 travel restrictions and quarantine requirements.