How far would you go to have your child live a longer and healthier life? If your daughter suffered from a debilitating condition which made every day an uphill battle, would you break the law to get her the medicine she needed?
Vera Twomey is a mother from Ireland. Her daughter Ava suffers from Dravet Syndrome, a rare form of epilepsy that is often treatable with medical cannabis.
When Marijuana.com first spoke with Twomey in December of last year, she was celebrating the fact that the Irish Parliament unanimously voted yes on the first stage of a medical marijuana bill. The win was partially due to her tireless efforts of lobbying the government to allow cannabis to be a legal medical treatment.
In the following months, Twomey was granted access to the CBD oil she needed to lower the incredible number of seizures her daughter suffered each day. However, Twomey’s extensive research showed that combining the CBD treatment with THC could give Ava’s condition a one-two punch that might allow her the opportunity to experience a much better qualify of life.
The big problem is that the Irish government has been dragging their feet on the bill, which by March of this year had not yet become law, due to the ongoing debate among members of parliament about the details of marijuana legislation. It was at that point when we caught up with Twomey again, just after she had completed a 260-kilometer (162-mile) walk from her house to Parliament to bring attention to the issue.
Now, after being told by Health Minister Simon Harris that there is nothing more the government can do at this time, the accidental activist went international. In an act of civil disobedience, Twomey headed to Barcelona, where the oil she needed for her child was available for prescription.
When Twomey returned to Ireland, she promptly declared the prescribed medicine to customs, at which point authorities confiscated the cannabis oil and detained her for one hour. She is now facing potential prosecution over her actions but has vowed to keep the fight going for her daughter and children like her throughout Ireland.
Marijuana.com spoke with Twomey this morning for the latest.
The last time we spoke, you had just finished your 162-mile walk and were waiting outside Parliament for them to talk to you. Has there been any progress on this issue since then?
None whatsoever, no. We received an email saying that there’s no point in meeting Minister Simon Harris again because he’s done everything that he can do.
Please tell me about your latest efforts in Spain. Did you go to Spain to access THC?
I contacted a clinic called the Kalapa Clinic in Spain and did a Skype consultation with them. I sent over a letter detailing Ava’s condition, her medication, her weight and the different requirements that they needed. They told me they were treating children from all over the world.
The THC they recommended Ava should try, was at 3.4 percent. They were completely professional and had lab reports and everything for the product.
So you went to Barcelona and what happened at that point?
They gave me the prescription for the oil and then I went to the pharmacy and filled the prescription there.
We then flew back to Dublin the following morning, but before we left Barcelona we put out a Facebook video to say that we were coming back to Ireland with the THC medication for my daughter.
We arrived back in and went through passport control and declared the medication. We were then stopped and searched by sniffer dogs and lined up against a wall like criminals. [That was] everybody [accompanying me] including Luke Flanigan a member of the European Parliament, and TD Gino Kenny. They both came with me to offer their support.
I was held and questioned for over an hour by customs but was released without charge. They took the THC away from me and said they were going to send it away for analysis, but I expect that I will never see that again.
So this was an act of civil disobedience.
It was, but there had been other people who have come and declared THC for their children and they have come through customs successfully. But they stopped me.
Why is it that some people have been let in and some have not?
I do not know, I can’t answer that.
Is it possible they stopped you because you’re now famous and they wanted to make an example of you?
Yeah, I think so.
Now I have heard that you may still be prosecuted, is that true?
Yes, it is. But I’m not a criminal and I don’t believe that I did anything wrong. I went to doctors, professional people and it was their [diagnosis] that it is necessary at this stage to move forward and administer THC alongside the CBD. The THC will improve her chances of seizure reduction.
But they have taken Ava’s oil and have given me no indication that they are giving it back and I want it back. I am a European citizen and if the prescription was issued within Europe, I see it as outrageous that I could be stopped. It’s complete hypocrisy.
Many people have asked me, why don’t you just leave Ireland and move to a part of Europe where it’s legal?
There are two reasons. The first and most important thing is my daughter. She has improved, but she would probably not be [well enough] to travel to another country. She experienced a few weeks ago, a 45-minute seizure.
The second point is, the stubborn part of my personality says why should I? Why should we put her through that? She should have the right to have access to this here at home.
If we took her away from her family here, from my mother who adores her, and from the other children that could have a serious effect on her as well.
So now that we are here, what’s next? Are you going to try this again?
We will have to do something, undoubtedly. I think the next point in the short-term is to demand the medication back. To say that they did not have the right to take the medication from her when it was prescribed by a physician.
I’m looking into how we can do that at the moment.
Marijuana.com contacted Ireland’s Health Minister, Simon Harris, and received a press release originally sent out during Twomey’s walk to Parliament last month.
Despite the setbacks and emotional turmoil, Twomey clearly vows to go as far as her resolve will take her.
Although Ava was born into this world with incredible challenges, she couldn’t have been blessed with a more caring and strong mother. Hopefully, that strength will achieve a victory for the Twomey family, much sooner than later.