Cannabis pills could soon be legalised in Republic of Ireland
Medical advice is being sought by the Republic's Department of Health in relation to cannabis-based medicinal products.
Irish Health Minister Mary Harney confirmed that her department is currently seeking "expert advice on whether or not there is a need, from a clinical perspective, to amend the Misuse of Drugs legislation to allow for the use of cannabis-based medicinal products".
However, Ms Harney warned that: "As cannabis is the drug which is most abused in Ireland, I am reluctant to loosen the controls on its use."
She said that she was aware that claims have been made in respect of the possible health benefits of cannabis-based medicinal products for patients suffering from certain conditions.
"I am also aware that cannabis-based medicinal products may be legally prescribed in other countries," she said.
At the moment in Ireland, cannabis and cannabis-based medicinal products are schedule one controlled substances under the Misuse of Drugs Act.
They are considered as having "no medicinal use and their manufacture, production, preparation, sale, supply, distribution and possession is unlawful, except for the purposes of research," she said.
Ms Harney was responding to a question by Labour Deputy Joe Costello, who had asked the minister if she would reconsider her decision not to allow cannabis-based drugs to be used for the medical treatment of multiple sclerosis sufferers and other patients.
He asked if her attention had been "drawn to the fact that such drugs are legally prescribed in other countries".
Following the minister's response, Deputy Costello said: "Mary Harney's reply to my parliamentary question is somewhat contradictory. On one hand she states that cannabis and cannabis-based products are considered as having no medicinal use.
"At the same time she is aware that cannabis-based medical products may be legally prescribed in other countries and she is seeking expert advice on whether or not to amend the Misuse of Drugs Act to allow for the use of cannabis-based medical products."