Twenty Irish doctors have joined forces to campaign against the liberalization of cannabis after lambasting a “one-sided debate” on its medicinal benefits.
The founding members of the Cannabis Risk Alliance wrote a letter to the Irish Times today to express concern that the country is “sleepwalking” towards the legalization of recreational cannabis use. “We are opposed to such a move as we strongly feel that it would be bad for Ireland, especially for the mental and physical health of our young people,” they said.
The group includes Dr. John Hillery, the head of the College of Psychiatrists, and Dr. Ray Walley, former president of the Irish Medical Organisation.
They claim to be treating increasing numbers of patients suffering from side effects of marijuana use, citing psychosis, seizures, “wasted lives” and even suicide.
They accuse industry lobbyists of pushing a legalization agenda and argue that the country has lost sight of the risks associated with cannabis use. The doctors have harsh words for those with a commercial interest in liberalizing the approach to cannabis, claiming they have hijacked the truth and likening them to big tobacco lobbyists from yesteryear.
They point to Canada and the U.S., where they claim that decriminalization and legalization of medicinal marijuana have been part of a “Trojan horse” method to legalize adult-use cannabis. They admit that there are some medicinal benefits associated with marijuana, but they feel these “limited” effects have been distorted and they lament the presence of cannabis news in the business section of newspapers.
They accuse the Department of Health and the HSE of failing to provide adequate education surrounding cannabis use, while insisting that the medical community must shoulder some of the blame.
Europe is poised to become the largest cannabis market in the world in the years ahead as more and more countries legalize medicinal use.
A bill that sought to legalize medical cannabis in Ireland was successful back in December 2016, but the government is yet to appoint a supplier. That has forced patients to travel abroad to secure cannabis prescriptions. There is now talk of Ireland growing its own.
High-profile medicinal cannabis campaigner Vera Twomey, whose daughter suffers from severe epilepsy, said she was devastated to learn of the doctors’ “very distressing” stance on cannabis. She argued that her daughter is finally pain-free and that medicinal cannabis is a positive development for the country.
Lawmaker Gino Kenny of the People Before Profit party drafted the Cannabis for Medicinal Use Bill, and he described the doctors’ letter as extraordinary and insulting for everyone who have campaigned for medicinal cannabis to be legalized.