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Cautious support from Athlone councillors for medical cannabis motion

Wednesday, 6th September, 2017 3:47pm

Cautious support from Athlone councillors for medical cannabis motion

Cllr Michael O'Brien

A motion from Cllr Michael O'Brien calling on the local authority to write to the Government to seek the legalisation of medical cannabis received cautious support at a meeting of the Athlone Municipal District this week.

A similar motion which the Moate-based councillor introduced at a full meeting of the county council was voted down earlier this summer, but he had more success with it among the Athlone-area councillors.

Cllr O'Brien called for a letter to be sent to Health Minister Simon Harris "calling for urgent legislation to be put in place for the legalisation of medical cannabis oil, and that he takes swift action to ensure that all Irish seeking this treatment abroad are allowed to return home and legally continue with their treatment."

The Independent councillor said he knows Athlone man Kenny Tynan, who is currently in Spain receiving medical cannabis treatment for brain cancer, and is also aware of the case of Vera Twomey who brought her daughter Ava to the Netherlands to access medical cannabis treatment for a severe form of epilepsy called Dravet Syndrome.

"I think it's very sad to see people with very serious conditions having to leave the country in order to access this treatment," he said. "I know Kenny Tynan, I know others who are contemplating going abroad, and it's so sad that they're being separated from their family as a result of this."

Cllr O'Brien stated that a medical cannabis bill which had been introduced in the Dail recently was "effectively defeated" at health committee stage. 

If it was felt that this legislation was "not fit for purpose and not legally sound" then the Government should replace it with a more suitable bill to legalise medical cannabis, he suggested.

He said some people had issues with this treatment because of the word "cannabis" but that CBD and THC, the two active compounds found in medical cannabis oil counteracted one another and there was no "high" for the person taking it. 

"Kenny Tynan has made huge progress with his brain cancer since he started this treatment. He's been able to come off prescription drugs that he had been taking. He's walking 3 to 6 kilometres a day and he feels like a well man," said Cllr O'Brien.

He said that "every second funeral I go to is a cancer funeral" and that people who were suffering from serious illness should have the option of undergoing cannabis treatment without breaking the law.

"It's a typical Irish thing - brush it under the carpet and say nothing. We have it with abortion and with other things too. We need to man up here," he stated.

"The evidence is there. This is not about drugs, it's about supporting people who are in a very serious situation."

Athlone Mayor Aengus O'Rourke thanked Cllr O'Brien for his heartfelt comments on this issue. "I have no problem supporting your call for a letter to issue to the Minister and I'd be interested to see what he has to say on it," he said.

Cllr Frankie Keena said he was aware of people who also had to travel abroad to access treatment for Lyme Disease and he suggested that Ireland was "falling behind when it comes to helping people with these conditions."

He said, however, that he would like to see further research being carried out in relation to medical cannabis.

"I wouldn't have the knowledge on this myself but I think they should fast-track further research on it," said Cllr Keena.

Cllr Tom Farrell said he "would be in agreement with the letter being sent, but that's about it," and gave a slight shake of his head, suggesting he wasn't convinced of the effectiveness of medical cannabis.

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