Dublin, Ireland – The Irish Government has announced plans to launch a public inquiry into the use of medicinal cannabis and to investigate the health risks associated with its use.
The Government’s decision follows recent revelations that a number of patients have died following use of the drug, which is known as cannabis oil, or cannabidiol (CBD).
The Government is also examining the potential for the drug to treat cancer.
The announcement comes after the Irish Medical Association (IMA) released a report in January that found the use and misuse of cannabis was the biggest contributor to a rise in deaths and serious injuries from the drug.
The IMA said the number of deaths attributed to the drug has increased by nearly 100 per cent in the past two years.
The Irish Medical Organisation (IMO) said the findings from its latest review of medical cannabis and its potential for cancer treatment could be a catalyst for a major public health change.
The organisation said there was an “urgent need” for greater public awareness about the risks of using cannabis.
Its Executive Director, Dr Stephen Kelly, said there needed to be a comprehensive and independent review of the current state of knowledge around the drug and its possible benefits.
The findings of the IMO report have led to a number recommendations for the Irish Government.
The Department of Health has already committed to the creation of a joint team of experts from the public health, public health service, medical research and public health advisory boards to review the use, benefits and risks of medical marijuana in Ireland.
The IMO has also called on the Government to review its guidelines for medical cannabis, which are currently in place and have been in place for years.
Dr Kelly said the IME report highlighted the need for a public health approach that would include a complete and accurate picture of the potential health benefits and harms associated with cannabis.
He said the Government must also ensure that the drug is available to the population in a manner that is appropriate for the health needs of patients and for the protection of the health and safety of all those who use it.
“These recommendations are the foundation upon which the Government’s approach will be built, as well as its plans for implementing these recommendations,” he said.
Dr Sean O’Neill, the Director of the National Institute of Health and Care Excellence (NICE), said the Irish public had a right to know about the potential risks associated in their daily lives with cannabis and the potential benefits associated with it.
He welcomed the Government decision to publish the IMA report and said the issue should be brought to the attention of the Irish people, as it has the potential to be the catalyst for changes in the country’s approach to the use or treatment of cannabis.
“The issue of medical use of cannabis is one that has attracted considerable attention from the media in recent months,” he told the Irish Independent.
“It is a very significant issue and we are looking forward to getting it out into the public domain.”
“However, we would also encourage all of the stakeholders in this important field to join together to create a comprehensive, coordinated and effective approach to this issue, and we hope that this will contribute to a much-needed discussion about the benefits and potential harms of medical and recreational cannabis,” he added.