Belfast Telegraph

Addiction specialist ‘ashamed’ as families travel abroad for cannabis medicine

Dr Garrett McGovern said it was a disgrace parents have to fight for cannabis-based medical products.

A top addiction specialist said he is “ashamed” of his profession as it has failed families in Ireland who are forced to travel abroad to access cannabis-based medicinal products.

Dr Garrett McGovern, a doctor who specialises in drug and alcohol addiction, said it was a disgrace that parents have to fight for medication that is “immeasurably changing” the lives of their sick children.

Dr McGovern, a medical director of the Priority Medical Clinic in Dublin, was speaking as medicinal cannabis campaigners and mothers of sick children called for Health Minister Simon Harris to lift the “effective embargo” on a Bill that would legalise the drug.

A year ago the Dail passed the Medicinal Use Regulation Bill on to the detailed scrutiny stage, but there has been a delay in rolling out the scheme.

In an emotional plea, Vera Twomey, mother of eight-year-old Ava who has epilepsy, called for greater access to medicinal cannabis.

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Medical cannabis campaigner Vera Twomey (Stefan Rousseau/PA)

The mother from Co Cork is forced to travel to Holland every three months to access the medication. Without it, Ms Twomey said, there would be “catastrophic consequences” for her health.

Dr McGovern said: “As I sit here today watching this emotional panel I am actually ashamed to be a doctor.

“I am ashamed of my profession today. They have let the women at this top table down.

“It’s a human rights issue and it’s an absolute disgrace.

“We need to proliferate the number of people around this table and we need to make it a mainstream issue. In Ireland we have a history of exporting problems out.

“I’m proud of all of you, I don’t think anyone in this room can understand what you guys are going through.

“It’s bad enough to be going through this but actually to have to fight in this way to be denied medication that is immeasurably changing the lives of your family and your children is disgraceful.”

Ms Twomey, whose daughter suffers from a severe form of epilepsy called Dravet Syndrome, secured a licence so Ava could receive cannabidiol (CBD) oil and tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) oil.

She called for Mr Harris to provide legislative change so that parents and children can access the medication locally.

“Our family has to leave the country every three months, we have to reapply for our licence for medical cannabis every three months,” she said.

“This is very distressing and disturbing to the whole family environment to be leaving every 12 weeks. Any disruption in supply to Ava’s medication could have catastrophic consequences for her health if there is a breakdown in supply in Holland.

“We are not getting support and being driven out of the country.

“That’s not good enough. We want THC and we want CBD in the proper format because we want the best for our kids.

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A year ago, the Dail passed the Medicinal Use Regulation Bill on to the detailed scrutiny stage (Niall Carson/PA)

“My daughter is an important a person as any other person in this State and she has the right to be respected.

“I want Simon Harris to do the right thing.”

Gino Kelly, People Before Profit TD, said: “This unnecessary hold up is preventing children and others who could benefit from access to medicinal cannabis from obtaining it.

“What is needed is for the Medicinal Cannabis Bill to be allowed progress to the committee stage where it can be scrutinised and if necessary amended.”

Also speaking at the event was Callie Blackwell who is one of the leading medicinal cannabis activists in Britain.

Her book, The Boy In 7 Billion, tells of how she gave her 14 year-old son illegal cannabis oil after being told he had less than one week to live.

She said that her son Deryn is “now doing very well”.

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