‘We’re lied to on medical cannabis’

‘We’re lied to on medical cannabis’
Ava Twomey with Mum Vera TwomeyPicture: John Delea.

If Vera Twomey's fight for cannabis-based medication for her daughter ultimately proves successful, it would ease the suffering of thousands of who live with chronic pain diseases, rather than open the floodgates to addictive misuse.

That's according to Jesse Stanley, one of five brothers that farm and harvest a CBD-based cannabis oil called Charlotte's Web that contains less than 0.2% of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the main constituent of cannabis.

Ms Twomey, from Aghabullogue, is worried that her seven-year-old daughter may die due to seizures caused by Dravet Syndrome and says the medication she is currently on - a Cannabidiol (CBD) based cannabis oil which is legal in Ireland as it contains less than 0.2% tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) - is not working as effectively as it was and Ava's seizures are increasing.

Those opposed to the legislation passing point to a lack of research, the efficacy of cannabis oil and the dangers of misuse of the drug.

Jesse says the most common misconception is that medicinal cannabis can get you high and because the drug is widely used for recreational purposes, it has a deviant tag attached to it that does not concur with oil-based products that contain very low levels of THC, the main constituent of cannabis.

The Health Protection Regulatory Authority (HPRA) say that very little scientific data exists on efficacy and only moderate benefits can be gained from use.

An often cited lack of research on the subject of medicinal cannabis is swatted aside by Jesse who says that enough research already exists but ponders why those opposed to it in Ireland don't carry out their own studies.

“There is a lack of education and a lack of knowledge on the subject. I think people have been lied to for the last 60 to 80 years and it's really done them a disservice. Most people don't understand, they think there is no research done on this and the opposite is true, there are over 20,000 studies on medicinal cannabis,” he said.

“You can pull up articles on Google from 50 or 60 years ago that state that cannabis was good for treating seizures so whatever reason, maybe it's pharmaceutical propaganda, so to speak, it has been villianised with little to no research behind it,” he adds.

Pressure from lobby groups working on behalf of major pharmaceutical companies who want to protect their earnings is a theory that Jesse believes is more than a mere conspiracy, but, he says, the answer is in science.

“I think there is obviously an agenda from other industries. In the United States, there's lobbying dollars on Capitol Hill to get those bills passed for corporations so that they can continue to operate in whatever way they want. In Ireland, I would assume it's no different from the way it is in other countries - money talks... cannabis based on science, is extremely safe,” he said.

“Most things that are illegal are based on science. Well, how do we know medicinal cannabis is so dangerous if there's no research? How can we have that stance of it being illegal when the research hasn't been done to prove it has a bad effect on society? The opposite seems to be true in the case of Ava with our hemp product helping her better than the pharmaceuticals she was actually taking."

A number of people have questioned the efficacy of the cannabinoids in recent weeks with a highly charged Joint Oireachtas Committee on Health raising more questions than answers. Ms Twomey, now the unintended face of the public campaign for thousands of sufferers of chronic pain, has long claimed that cannabis oil would help her daughter Ava. Is it really the answer for her illness? It's an emphatic 'yes' from Jesse.

“It would absolutely help Ava. Currently, she is seeing 90% seizure reduction with the Charlotte's Web, which is astounding, and better than any of the pharmaceutical products she has been on,” he said.

“The medical cannabis side, and allowing that, opens the door not just for children like Ava but also for older people that have trouble for arthritis or multiple sclerosis or Parkinson's or Alzheimer's or the many other myriad of diseases that need to be treated by medicinal cannabis.

“Charlotte's Web is a very palatable start to that because it's non-psychotropic. People need options. The regular pharmaceuticals that people have been prescribed are failing them and we owe it to ourselves to research something else to give people hope that there's a chance of something else and I think around the world we're seeing that Governments and legislation are giving people another option.” 

Another concern in legalising medicinal is misuse and the dangerous side effects of over-usage. The HPRA are adamant that the side effects have not been adequately studied yet Jesse draws a comparison with alcohol, a legal drug, which is regulated and taxed, yet puts a severe strain on the public health service.

“In the written record that I understand, nobody has ever overdosed on cannabis. However, alcohol, which is burgeoning in the rest of the world, including Ireland, kills more people and sends more people to the hospital then cannabis ever has,” he said.

“Thirty out of 50 states in the US have a medicinal cannabis programme, now we have 11 countries in the EU that have a programme, yet everybody seems to say there's no research behind it. Then why are the progressive results that we are seeing around the world happening. It has to be based on something." 

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