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A medical marijuana bill scheduled for a vote in the Irish lower House of Parliament has moved forward to Ireland's Health Committee for amendments after last-minute support from two political parties.

Despite the Health Committee's recommendation in July 2017 to kill the legislation, two major political parties have since thrown their support behind the medical marijuana bill. This surprising turn of events completely sidestepped the vote altogether and sent the legislation to the Health Committee for amendments to move it ahead in the parliamentary process.

“This time last week I was convinced that the bill would have been defeated,” said People Before Profit politician Eugene “Gino” Kenny, the author of the legislation and a Teachta Dála (member of the Dáil, or lower house)  for the Dublin Mid-West constituency, told “All the main political parties were saying that they were going with the recommendations of the Health Committee. When you hear that, it's pretty conclusive.”

Kenny added that his realism regarding the success of the legislation was a simple numbers game. They did not have the votes to pass the legislation at that point for it to move forward. “Then something extraordinary happened,” said Kenny. “Two hours before the debate, one political party said they would support it. [They are] made up of 25 MPs.”

Photo by Diogo Palhais on Unsplash

That party, the left-wing Sinn Féin, had met a week earlier with Kenny regarding what changes the bill would need to earn the Sinn Féin support for the idea of medical cannabis. “Any concerns they had for the bill, we addressed them in amendments and we sent them an email,”  Kenny said.

The bigger surprise came when the center-right Fianna Fáil, a larger party in the Dáil, also put its support behind the bill, a move that came with sudden but welcome support.

“I still to this day scratch my head [on this decision]. They said [previously] that they were going with the recommendation of the Health Committee,” Kenny said.

With both parties changing their position two hours before the debate, the ruling government of Ireland backed down and allowed the bill to progress.

The Health Committee, despite its recommendation to kill the legislation, is now forced to accept that it is moving forward because of the government support it has received. The committee now has five to six weeks to make amendments, which Kenny says is standard for the procedure, though it may be longer.

Even though the news is promising, the legislation is not out of the woods yet, given that the Health Committee can and may “chop it to shreds.”

Regardless of what amendments the Health Committee recommends, Kenny will be satisfied if they achieve two major goals. “I think the bill will be heavily amended, but what we want is [medical cannabis] can be prescribed by a doctor and that THC products can be available.”

Kenny admits he is not sure what will happen after the amendment stage, calling it “uncharted territory.” One thing is certain, however, what seemed impossible last week is now completely within the realm of possibility. To that end, Kenny and his supporters are optimistic that sooner or later, Ireland will have a legal medical cannabis program for its citizens.