Meet the Individuals Behind Ireland’s Move to Medical Marijuana

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Patients across Ireland are expected to be able to access the greatest natural medicine on the planet by the spring of 2017.

The medical marijuana bill went entirely unopposed in the Dáil, which is the Irish version of Parliament, and with that open door came a new era.

The passing of the bill contains a much deeper meaning for Ireland than some of the other countries who have crossed the same threshold. The reason for this is the fact that an Irish Physician named William Brooke O’Shaughnessy was the first to popularize cannabis in modern medicine in the mid 1800s. That was long before prohibition came to ruin everyone’s party. After that, O’Shaughnessy’s research in this area was quickly ignored.

Richard Boyd Barrett is a TD (Member of Parliament) in the People Before Profit Party, and is one of the team members responsible for putting forth this monumental change for Irish society. Along with his colleague TD Gino Kenny, they introduced the legislation for medical cannabis to become a reality.

“The gallery was absolutely packed in the Parliament last night, with people who themselves have an urgent need for cannabis-based medicinal products, or have family members who need them. It was quite an emotional experience,” he said in an interview with Marijuana.com.

TD Barrett went on to add that people have been campaigning for “a decade or more” to receive medical marijuana access. “That was a public campaign with relatively small numbers but those numbers have been growing over recent years.”

Barrett said the reason for the increased demand is that many of Ireland’s citizens have been accessing cannabis-based medicines illegally. Through personal experience, many have found that this medicine actually works.

One of Barrett’s concerns is pharmaceutical corporations trying to dominate the distribution of cannabis in Ireland. “Obviously we have a concern about the influence of big pharma and what lobbying they might engage in.”

Regardless of the bumps in the road moving forward, Barrett is quite satisfied with the high level of public support for medical cannabis in Ireland. “In a country that historically has been seen as quite conservative on certain social issues, there’s been a sea change.”

That shift couldn’t have come soon enough for Vera Twomey and her husband Paul Barry whose daughter Ava has Dravet Syndrome. This rare epileptic dysfunction was made famous by Charlotte Figi, who was treated with CBD oil that doctors now know prevents the majority of seizures that come along with the debilitating illness. Those treatments paved the way for Charlotte’s Web, the high-CBD strain that works wonders for many Dravet patients. Ava Twomey, in her own right, quickly became the poster-child for medical marijuana in Ireland.

“Ava went through eleven different forms of medication over the course of six-and-a-half years,” Vera Twomey said. “The doctors told us there was nothing more that they could do.”

Twomey had been researching cannabis for years on the internet as a possible medication, but decided to try all other treatment options first. “I started joining [online]groups in the UK and America to talk to other parents about their experiences. People were talking about leaving their homes and moving to Colorado.” Twomey went on to add that the same people were coming back and saying that their children’s seizures were drastically reduced.

This win for the family was a fourteen-month uphill climb to convince the Irish Government to allow medical marijuana. Her efforts involved campaigning on the radio and online, lobbying the Health Minister and several other Members of Parliament, creating petitions, and a number of other grassroots efforts that eventually gained enough momentum to change the hearts and minds of the establishment.

Ava has been taking cannabis oil for two months and her seizures have reduced to less than a fraction of what they once were. “From the 2nd of October until the 31st, after starting Charlotte’s Web, our daughter had seven seizures. To put that in context, Ava [previously]could have had seven seizures in two hours.”

Perhaps the last word on this recent triumph should come from the everyday marijuana enthusiast in Ireland. Peter Nelson is a student and knows the Twomey-Barry family through the Irish cannabis community. He sees this as just the beginning of full cannabis acceptance in Ireland. “Our first step is to [make sure]come early spring that [patients]are able to avail of cannabis. Then we will keep lobbying and keep marching until we get them to really hop on and stop treating us as criminals.”

Whatever the future holds, last night the Emerald Isle finally turned green as medical marijuana steamrolled its way to a historic win.

About Author

Jonathan Hiltz has been a journalist, a TV producer and marijuana advocate for over sixteen years. He has a wife, two young children and lives in the Toronto area.

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