Many Irish people on twitter over the past few weeks have seen or the hashtag #talktovera - a campaign to get the government to speak with reluctant cannabis activist Vera Twomey, who is trying to get her daughter Ava's medicine - Bedrocan - available in the same way that other medicines on the current medical cannabis access program, which was funded recently.
Currently Vera and her family have to pay €9,500 upfront, and then wait weeks sometimes for it to be reimbursed. Before COVID-19, Vera or her husband would have to travel to the Hague in The Netherlands to collect the medicine. There has been a new scheme introduced where medicinal cannabis was collected by courier on behalf off all the licenced patients, this was due to end when restrictions were over. Vera was having none of it. Thanks to her campaigning and the support from the public and celebrities alike who tweeted their views along with the hashtag #talktovera - Even Bosco was joining in on the support.
But this new campaign is not just about being treated the same as other medicinal cannabis patients, it's also about choice of medicine. The list of medicines available on the program are very limited, and do not suit many patients that use it for chronic pain, ms patients and other conditions that could from benefit a wide range of cannabis strains that include cannabinoids and terpenes in different ratios. One medicinal cannabis study showed that while one particular strain could have a positive effect on apoptosis (death) of pancreatic cancer cells, another strain had zero effect. We have all heard of the entourage effect, its why the best perceived medicinal cannabis oils are full spectrum, which means that a CBD oil does not only contain CBD, but it contains the rest of the plants beneficial cannabinoids such as CBN and CBG.
This is what puts Vera in a volatile situation. Any change in Ava's medication for seizures could have an onset effect. Ava's consultant has agreed that there should be no change made. Although the products available under MCAP may be what looks like similar medicine, any change in strain or procedure of extracting is going to have a completely different cannabinoid and terpene profile, and essentially not the same medicine.
After weeks of campaigning and an open letter from Vera, a response was finally made. It's seems that it is the "nervousness" of the Department of Health that are holding matters up, and The Taoiseach and The Minister for Health are doing all they can. There are import regulations that need negotiating.
Even getting Bedrocan on to MCAP isn't going to be a "solve all" situation. Reports from chronic pain patients say that a sativa strain like Bedrocan actually increases pain and they require a different strain called indica. There are hundreds of strains that all have different cannabinoid and terpene profile - different entourage effects, some designed specifically for conditions like chronic pain and cancer.
This is why we need to remove the red tape and stigma around cannabis legislation and regulation.
A Cannabis Patient is ANYONE who benefits medicinally from consuming cannabis.
Patients need time to heal - and don't deserve to be wrapped up in red tape at each opportunity to access the amazing capabilities of cannabis.
Until then, cannabis patients of all ages, all over Ireland will continue to suffer.
For Ava - A number 1 selling book by Vera Twomey is available to buy here.