Limerick GP says 'stronger case needed for medicinal cannabis Bill'

 Sales of cannabis oil products continue to rise in city

Anne Sheridan

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Anne Sheridan

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anne.sheridan@limerickleader.ie

Limerick GP says 'stronger case needed for medicinal cannabis Bill'

Dr Ray O’Connor, a senior research fellow of the graduate entry medical school in the University of Limerick Picture: Press 22

IT is only “a matter of time” before cannabis is legalised for medical use, but professionals will need to present a more substantive case supporting its scientifically-proven benefits, a Limerick doctor has urged.

Dr Ray O’Connor, a senior research fellow of the graduate entry medical school in the University of Limerick, was among those who supported the now defeated Bill, but only under strict regulations.

The Oireachtas Health committee voted to reject People Before Profit TD Gino Kenny’s Bill to legalise medical cannabis, saying it “should not proceed to committee stage”.

However, Dr O’Connor said that he believes “it is only a matter of time” before it becomes law, “as the literature is there” to support its use for a number of medical conditions.

“As the research continues to build up, medical cannabis will be seen as a recognised treatment for medical conditions for which nothing else will work,” Dr O’Connor told the Limerick Leader.

“It is now a matter for the medical profession - people who feel that this is an advantage [for patients] - assembling their evidence in a better way, alongside the research community to illustrate the advantages of it.”

He said the fact that the Bill has been defeated is a “marker that we have to get the compounds isolated and properly manufactured, and then get the evidence based behind them.”

Dr O’Connor said that ​legalising cannabis for medicinal purposes will be much safer than patients sourcing illegal cannabis on the street to relieve chronic health conditions.

“In legalising cannabis you will have standardisation and security of source,” he said, adding that “sourcing illegal cannabis is not like sourcing moondust”.

He cited evidence relating to medicinal cannabis for epilepsy sufferers, in particular, which was recently published in The New England Journal of Medicine, describing the publication as being close to “the Holy Bible” for medical professionals and the “most prestigious medical journal in the world”.

The Journal notes the medicinal cannabis is a “hot button” issue, which has been complicated due to a number of factors.

“Anecdotal media reports of spectacular results, coupled with the allure of using a ‘natural’ compound and long-held beliefs surrounding its recreational use, plus the fact that medicinal cannabis remains illegal in many jurisdictions, have conspired to make it extremely difficult for physicians to provide advice in this area.

“That it has been advocated particularly for desperately ill children adds to the societal pressure,” states the article.

“After an era dominated by anecdote and obfuscated by medicolegal issues and emotionally infused debate, more scientific studies are under way. Much more research is needed to understand the basic science, benefits, and risks of cannabinoids in epilepsy,” it states.

But for those suffering from Dravet syndrome, a form of epilepsy, it notes that trials have “found a significantly greater reduction in seizure frequency among patients who received cannabidiol than among those who received placebo.

The seizure-free rate was five per cent with the active drug as compared with zero per cent with the placebo.

In Limerick city, Eats of Eden, the first health store in the city to stock cannabis oil products, is continuing to replenish supplies to meet demand.

Sales “skyrocketed” once they were introduced to the shelves a number of months ago. 

Their cannabis oil products do not contain THC – tetrahydrocannabinol – the psychoactive compound found in illegal cannabis herb and resin.

Proprietor and biochemist Cillin Cleere said the defeated Bill is “an unfortunate turn of events” but expects sales of CBD oil to continually improve.

In addition to a number of oil products, Mr Cleere said they have also introduced a range of artisan dark chocolate products which contains CBD. “As the chocolate melts, you just mellow out,” he said.