Brion Hoban gives his opinion on the legalization of medicinal cannabis.
Denying medicine to people with serious illnesses is morally wrong. The question of what exactly that medicine is should not be a factor in the discussion.
Medical cannabis is a hotly debated topic all around the western world. There are many who see its legalisation as a slippery slope that will lead to cannabis being available for recreational purposes.
I have never bought the slippery slope argument in any context. Marriage equality has not led to the passing of laws allowing people to marry more than one person at a time, nor allowing them to marry animals.
The slippery slope failed to materialise as it so often does. Besides which, the possible issues that might spring up years down the line can be dealt with when they appear, and should not stand in the way of progressive change.
(There is also the point that recreational cannabis is already freely available all across the country despite being illegal, meaning medical cannabis becoming legal is unlikely to add much to the volume anyway, but I digress).
Besides, the argument against medical cannabis is already flawed by comparing it to recreational cannabis. The simple fact remains that any and all medical drugs could be used as recreational ones.
Yes, cannabis can become something addictive, but so too can morphine and over the counter pain medication. Was the solution in those cases to ban the medical use of those drugs altogether? Of course not. Instead the sale of these drugs were regulated and power was given to medical professionals to decide who should be treated with them.
Scientific evidence points to medical cannabis having positive health benefits for chronic pain and muscular spasm. It is already being used to help people with cataracts live fuller lives all around the world.
There is also some evidence that it can be used to reduce nausea in patients undergoing chemotherapy and improve the appetites of those with HIV and AIDS.
Which is not to say that there are no possible downsides to medicinal cannabis. Reported side effects of cannabis such as anxiety and memory loss should not be dismissed out of hand.
Yet it must be remembered that all drugs can have negative side effects if overused or used by the wrong person. Again it is far better that cannabis goes under the strict regulatory oversight of the medical world who can attempt to alleviate and eliminate the drugs' more dangerous elements.
Simply put, a doctor should be trusted to provide the best medical care possible to their patients. This should not be the decision of politicians and law enforcement officers.
Indeed, a Bill that would allow doctors to prescribe medicinal cannabis to patients with certain conditions is currently in the committee stages of Dáil Éireann. Minister for Health, Simon Harris, has expressed support for the Bill and no major political party has come out against it passing.
It is entirely likely that the bill will become law at some point later this year. Medical cannabis may well go from being a theoretical prospect to part of reality. Naturally I think this a good thing. If you disagree, then let me put to you a simple question: Would you feel differently if a drug with the exact same properties as cannabis had just been discovered by scientists? What if this was an entirely new drug that someone had just invented in a lab?
I suspect a lot of the opposition to medicinal cannabis comes from the fact that we are taught from an early age that cannabis is a ‘bad’ drug, just like cocaine and heroin. Early procured biases can prevent the nicest of people from acknowledging scientific evidence on the basis that it feels wrong to change the status quo.
Yet progress is about identifying which parts of the status quo needs improving. Cannabis has many medical benefits and should not be kept from the hands of those it could help heal.
Denying medicine to people with serious illnesses is morally wrong. It should not matter that the medicine in question is cannabis.