Monday, March 26,
By Padraig O'Morain, Health and Children Correspondent
A consultant neurologist working with multiple sclerosis patients has said she would be "delighted" if cannabis could be made available to patients in a regulated and legal way.
Dr Orla Hardiman was commenting on remarks by the Garda Commissioner, Mr Pat Byrne, who had been reported as saying there was a case for looking at the legalisation of cannabis for medical problems.
Mr Byrne was quoted in the Sunday Times as saying: "I think there is a question for looking at the legalisation of cannabis for medical reasons only. I don't support the broad legalisation or decriminalisation of the use of cannabis, but I do think there is a case for having another look in relation to medical problems."
A Garda spokesman said yesterday that he presumed the quotes were accurate.
Dr Hardiman, who works with MS patients at Beaumont Hospital in Dublin, said: "I would be delighted if there was a move towards regulated use of cannabis in a legal fashion. There is an anecdotal literature, corroborated by patients, that cannabis works for pain in MS. I know patients who would use it and find it useful in pain management."
She said she did not ask patients where they got the cannabis.
A British government-approved trial of the cannabis plant began recently in Plymouth. Its purpose is to examine the usefulness of cannabis for pain and tremor in MS patients. Nearly 700 people in 40 centres across the UK are expected to take part in the trial eventually.
The subject generated considerable public interest in Britain earlier this year when it emerged that a former Drugs Squad officer was buying cannabis on the streets to get relief from pain associated with MS.
A Conservative MP, Mr Tim Yeo, this year revealed that his son was using cannabis to alleviate the side-effects of chemotherapy for cancer.
Last week a committee of the House of Lords said that it was "undesirable to prosecute genuine therapeutic users of cannabis who possess or grow cannabis for their own use".
In Canada and some US states cannabis can be bought on prescription to treat glaucoma and other medical conditions and alleviate the side-effects of chemotherapy.
Queen Victoria was said to have used cannabis, prescribed by her doctor, to relieve menstrual cramps.