This week, without much fanfare, lawmakers in Ireland passed a bill to legalize medical cannabis. Despite years of wavering on the question of medical marijuana, the government didn’t even stand in the way this time. In fact, the bill faced so little opposition no one needed to vote on it. On its own, it’s a fairly typical story. Until that is, you realize Ireland probably just legalized medical cannabis because of a group of ultra-secret growers.
Secret Growers Of Ireland
It wasn’t until October 2016 that the UK government acknowledged that cannabis has medical and therapeutic value. It’s possible that this acknowledgment helped to pass legal medical cannabis in Ireland without a vote.
However, underground medical marijuana advocates have been resisting UK law for years. As a result, there is an entire secret medical marijuana industry operating in the UK.
Shockingly, growers who support the underground network give away tens of thousands of dollars-worth of cannabis to people who are sick. In other words, they provide totally free but still illegal medical marijuana.
These ultra-secret growers are operating their medical cannabis charity at significant risk. The UK’s conservative and punitive cannabis laws would put these good samaritans behind bars for years.
As a Viceland documentary on the underground network shows, cannabis possession will land you five years in prison. Get caught supplying, and you’re looking at a 14-year sentence.
It’s precisely this kind of irrational pot policy that Ireland hopes to change by legalizing medical cannabis. The black market in medical cannabis is a fact UK lawmakers can no longer ignore.
Making Medical Marijuana Legal In Ireland
Irish lawmakers passed the medical cannabis bill with regulation and severely ill patients in mind. Currently, the bill mentions qualifying illnesses like cancer, multiple sclerosis, fibromyalgia, and chronic pain.
The bill also puts medical cannabis prescriptions in the hands of doctors. A physician will ultimately decide if their patient will benefit from cannabis treatment.
Furthermore, legislators are taking steps to learn more about the benefits of medical marijuana. Ireland’s health minister, Simon Harris, will meet with regulators for advice about the scientific and clinical merits of medical cannabis. Informing health officials about the reality of medical cannabis could help the bill to pass the next round of votes.
Another next step is getting people in the medical profession on board. Lawmakers hope doctors will support the use of medical cannabis once the drug is approved by the Health Products Regulatory Authority.
Recreational Cannabis Will Have To Wait
The Irish health minister Simon Harris also expressed concerns about the legal medical cannabis bill. He worries the law could have the unintended consequence of legalizing marijuana for recreational use. He wants to add checks and change the specifics of the bill to prevent legalizing recreational cannabis.
As a result, lawmakers are looking to the United States for models of medical cannabis laws. Medical cannabis is legal in almost 30 states. And in places like New Jersey, children can even receive medical cannabis treatment on school grounds. However, a parent or legal guardian has to be present to administer the drug.