A medical marijuana bill scheduled for a vote in the Irish Dáil (lower House of Parliament) has moved forward to Ireland’s Health Committee for amendments after last-minute support from two political parties.
Despite the Health Committee’s recommendation in July to kill the legislation, two major political parties have since thrown their support behind the medical marijuana bill. This surprising turn of events completely sidestepped the vote altogether and sent the legislation to the Health Committee for amendments to move it ahead in the Parliamentary process.
“This time last week I was convinced that the bill would have been defeated,” said TD Gino Kenny, the author of the legislation, in an interview with Marijuana.com. “All the main political parties were saying that they were going with the recommendations of the Health Committee. When you hear that, it’s pretty conclusive.”
Kenny went on to add that his realism regarding the legislation was a simple numbers game. They did not have the votes to pass the legislation at that point for it to move forward. “Then something extraordinary happened,” said Kenny. “Two hours before the debate, one political party said they would support it. [They are] made up of 25 MPs.”
The party that stepped up in favor of the legislation is called Sinn Féin. A week earlier, Kenny had a meeting with their representatives regarding the bill to see what changes, if any, could be made in order for the party to throw their support behind the idea of medical cannabis. “Any concerns they had for the bill, we addressed them in amendments and we sent them an email,” said Kenny.
The bigger surprise came when an even larger party in the Dáil called Fianna Fáil also decided to support the bill. Kenny is not sure what the catalyst was for their sudden support, but the help was incredibly welcome. “I still to this day scratch my head [on this decision]. They said [previously] that they were going with the recommendation of the Health Committee.”
With both of these parties changing their position two hours before the debate, the ruling government of Ireland backed down and allowed the bill to progress.
The Health Committee, despite their recommendation to kill the legislation, are now forced to accept that it is moving forward because of the government support it has received. They now have five to six weeks to make amendments, which Kenny says is standard for this procedure. Having said that, Kenny believes it will be longer, stating that people should take that timeline with a “pinch of salt.”
Even though this news is incredibly promising, the legislation is not out of the woods yet. Kenny knows the Health Committee can and may “chop it to shreds.”
Regardless of what amendments the Health Committee recommends, Kenny will be satisfied if they achieve two major goals. “I think the bill will be heavily amended, but what we want is [medical cannabis] can be prescribed by a doctor and that THC products can be available.”
Kenny admits he is not sure what will happen after the amendment stage, calling it “unchartered territory.” One thing is certain, however, what seemed impossible last week is now completely within the realm of possibility. To that end, Kenny and his supporters are optimistic that sooner or later, Ireland will have a legal medical cannabis program for its citizens.
Photo courtesy of Allie Beckett