Family backing cannabis bill for Erika

Lisa Cawley with her daughter Erika. Photo by Darren Kinsella

Lisa Cawley with her daughter Erika. Photo by Darren Kinsella

From Southside People:

A SOUTHSIDE family is backing a bill to be debated in the Dáil in December on the legalisation of cannabis for medicinal reasons. 

Deputy Gino Kenny, a People Before Profit TD from the Dublin Mid-West constituency, has drafted the ‘Cannabis for Medicinal Use Regulation Bill’ on behalf of people like Clondalkin man John O’Mara, whose granddaughter Erika Cawley suffers from a rare condition called Dravet Syndrome.

Sufferers of this condition have a life expectancy of 20 years of age and, according to John, it’s as the result of a mutation of an SCN1 gene at birth.

Erika, who is seven-years-of-age, is one of the 200 people in Ireland who suffers from Dravet Syndrome. According to John, her condition involves “constant intractable epileptic like seizures on a daily basis” and is one that “cannot be controlled by conventional drugs”.

John is of the view that the legalisation of a low dose tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) cannabis oil product for medicinal usage would provide pain relief for people suffering with conditions similar to Erika’s.

“We were told that Erika would never walk or talk again,” John revealed. “The particularly violent seizures have reduced her to an infant child state four times since she was diagnosed. She’s allergic to some of the drugs in the hospital and my daughter has to carry a letter with her everywhere she goes in case Erika has a seizure. We were initially told that Erika couldn’t live beyond 20 minutes from Tallaght Hospital.”

John stressed that he does not want to see cannabis legalised for recreational purposes, but that low doses of THC cannabis oil had been “proven to provide effective pain relief for people with Dravet Syndrome”.

Deputy Kenny’s private member’s bill proposes that a regulatory authority is established to issue licences for the importation and supply of medicinal cannabis.

“We could import it from other European Union countries, such as the Netherlands, as it has a well-established industry,” Deputy Kenny said. “Numerous countries in Europe have state industries and private companies in this area.

“The regulatory authority would ensure a pharmaceutical grade standard of medicinal cannabis that would include medicinal cannabis in herbal, oil and tablet form.”

The bill also provides for the establishment of a research institute, Deputy Kenny said. The purpose of this would be to explore how the product could be cultivated domestically. It would also examine how people who suffer from cancer, epilepsy, multiple sclerosis (MS) and Dravet Syndrome would be able to receive a doctor’s recommendation for cannabis oil to provide pain relief.

Deputy Kenny said a recent all-party parliamentary investigation in Britain called the Barnes Report was of the view that it is “unacceptable” that “thousands of people” have to break the law to access medicinal cannabis for pain relief and that drug policy required reform.

European countries that have legalised medicinal cannabis so far include the Netherlands, Germany and Spain. So far, 25 US states have also done so.