From top: At the signing last week in the Department of Health HQ of legislation to allow for the operation of the Medical Cannabis Access Programme, were from left: John Lynch, Director of Compliance HPRA; Dr Mairin Ryan, Deputy Chief Executive HIQA and, front from left: Minister of State for Health Promotion and the National Drugs Strategy Catherine Byrne & Minister for Health Simon Harris; Johnny Green
Here’s Johnny Green!
With his weekly ‘roll-up’ of all things ‘erb.
Pivoting back to last week’s Roll Up let’s travel on one of the spurs off the timeline; day two of Vera Twomey’s historic walk, November 2016, and the Minister’s announcement to commission a policy review. Remember November 2016.
An tÚdarás Rialála Táirgí Sláinte (HPRA for short,) were tasked and promptly produced a set of recommendations to the Minister by January 2017. Remember January 2017.
On June 26, 2019, exactly one day after my last Roll Up, another entry into our timeline was established; “MISUSE OF DRUGS (PERSCRIPTION AND CONTROL OF SUPPLY OF CANNABIS FOR MEDICAL USE) REGULATIONS 2019”
The significance and the scale of the opportunity that legalising cannabis promises Ireland is no longer a matter for the backrooms and smoke-filled lanes of political skulduggery, patronage and party henchmen;.
Yet your Government and your media did not prompt or wonder why 30 months were allowed pass before this photo-op.
An interesting observation came, not from any opposition member or from the establishment media that Ireland continues to salute, it was from that bastion of industry periodicals, The Irish Medical Times;
“The Minister for Health is to have no liability for the use of cannabis- based products under the newly launched Medical Cannabis Access Programme (MCAP)”
In all likelihood this may well have been prompted by their own obligation to put their readers and members on notice of potential professional practice liabilities that they found snuck into the amendments;
“(7) A practitioner issuing a prescription for a specified controlled drug for use by his or her individual patient does so under his or her direct responsibility in order to fulfil the special needs of that patient.
(8) The fact that a product is a specified controlled drug is not an endorsement of the safety, quality or efficacy of the specified controlled drug and the Minister shall have no liability in respect of the use of a specified controlled drug by a person issued with a prescription under this Regulation.”
For the record, there is not one single recorded death as a result of taking cannabis in THC form.
A Senior Minister, his advisors, and indeed his legislative draftsmen must know that THC is just not toxic enough at any consumable level to cause an overdose. One would be more ill from consuming equal levels of marmalade.
What this should now be telling you is that the Minister took thirty months just to implement contents of that very same HPRA report.
Earlier, above, you might have supposed that the HPRA were efficient and diligent in completing the Minister’s ask within the two months that included Christmas and New Year’s; however hold back on your compliments, if there were any for this Quango of a whole range of interests.
The extracts from the Bill, quoted above, are all I need to know to inform Broadsheet readers that the HPRA took from the UK Barnes Report.
There is nothing wrong with that of course, why not make use of available, verified and trusted research. I am introducing the source only to widen the background into a legal cannabis environment and to provide the debates with actual facts.
is this the current intended legislation as put forward, not letting patients grow their own medication under the Irish programme, whereas it is permitted in the US and in Canada, and since Ireland introduced research and facts from other jurisdictions to form their own reports and base their own legislation on, I think the Irish should be told why?
Why should chronic pain be excluded? Pain Clinics and Pain Management Consultants need to be called upon and brought to the table, along with Health Sector Bean Counters and Pharmacists, and confirm who is the end beneficiary of this legislation? The Patient? The HSE, Or the Suppliers?
Do you need to ask why the study and consultation period for the HPRA report was too short? Is everyone satisfied to rely on the UK Group outcomes and session notes? I would certainly expect some oversite confirming the credentials and independence of the contributors.
Why is the HPRA opposed to the establishing of a regulatory authority for Irish Cannabis; i.e. Irish Weed. (Germany, the US and again, Canada have.)
Are the HPRA themselves actually qualified to be allowed that assertion?
Is that not a matter for the Department of Finance?
This is where, in my view, there is evidence to suggest that the authors responsible for the HPRA Report attempted to sabotage Gino Kelly’s Bill, in favour of one crafted for their Minister.
In Gino Kenny’s bill, a separate cannabis control commission was presented, yet the HPRA took it upon themselves to diss this component, even in the absence of a mandate or instructions by Minister Harris.
Why would they do that, everyone knows Ireland loves a good Quango.
This is a good authority on the very subject of a regulatory authority, Sir Norman Lamb a former Health Secretary in the UK –
“It is going to defeat our regulatory system if we try and drive it through the system as it is now. My instinct is that we will need a specialist cannabis authority as they have in Germany.”
The HPRA, who were not shy about handpicking some sections of the UK’s recommendations for their own report, took it upon themselves to decide a separate regulatory entity was not required. Now whose interest would that be in?
Which leads us now to the most important question to be answered before any further advances; who are the HPRA ?
A cautionary scan of their 2017 Annual Report, Very quickly advises that they had a 1.2 million loss in the year, and of their 27million takings, 3 million is a top up from the taxpayer.
They do appear to have got burned by some ill-advised and badly timed real estate activities, another drift well outside their remit perhaps, prompting another question, do they really need Dublin 2 offices and a mortgage?
You will note that their accounts are qualified and I see that there is some mess with Superannuation issues.
Celebrity accountant Vanessa Foran tells me this is very common in the Health Sector as SuperAnn Liabilitiy in any one year cannot be valued with any accuracy, the comfort for the Auditors is that it future pension liabilities are underwritten by the Department, so she is confident it is merely a Technical Qualification caused by FRS102.
Early days for me with this mess and it is 4th of July week, so you can expect us to circle back to this again. Particularly the HPRA and what who they think they are or should be.
In summary, the new legislation is a something of a step forward, but you can see by the questions surrounding its creation there are also a good few bigger steps behind.
At the very minimum Ireland should have established a self-funding “Cannabis Control Commission” or at least set about one.
An echo of week one’s Roll Up; but entrusting the HPRA and Minister for Health Simon Harris, who himself has zero industry background, of any sort, with this billion euro industry remains a strategic mistake, that one day may be discovered to be a mistake on purpose; that may come back to haunt him and everyone else too.
But then, Ireland loves a Tribunal just as much as any Quango.
Johnny Green will attempt to keep Broadsheet readers up-to-date on the growing cannabis industry worldwide. His weekly Roll-Ups appear here every Tuesday at 4.20. Follow Johnny here on twitter for updates.
Johnny Green illustration by Alan O’Regan