Ireland former health boss to chair Citizens’ Assembly on drugs

The Citizens’ Assembly was established in February to examine and make recommendations on the country’s drug policy reports Cannabis Health News

The Irish government has appointed former Health Service Executive CEO Paul Reid to chair its newly established Citizens’ Assembly on Drugs Use. 

The Citizens’ Assembly on Drugs Use was established in late February, following resolutions in Dáil and Seanad Éireann, to examine and make recommendations on the country’s drug policy and reduce the harms of illicit drugs on individuals and the wider community. 

Taoiseach [Prime Minister] Leo Varadkar confirmed on Tuesday, 28 February that the former CEO of Ireland’s Health Service Executive (HSE) Paul Reid has been appointed as the independent chairperson.

The assembly will also consist of 99 members of the general public, who will be chosen through a random selection process.

Mr Reid left the HSE in October 2022, following a three-year stint in the role which saw him lead the Irish health service through the Covid-19 pandemic.

However, his appointment has been met with concern from drug reform advocates in Ireland, due to the negative stance the health system has taken on drugs to date.

There has been particular criticism around the ‘restrictive’ nature of Ireland’s Medical Cannabis Access Programme (MCAP). Despite being introduced in 2019 under the former Minister for Health Simon Harris, it was not fully operational until 2021, with fewer than 100 people thought to be enrolled on the scheme so far. 

Many have also condemned the fact that chronic pain is not included on the programme, which only offers access to limited products for people living with one of three qualifying conditions. These include intractable nausea and vomiting associated with chemotherapy, severe treatment-resistant epilepsy, and spasticity associated with multiple sclerosis (MS).

“The current Medical Cannabis Access Programme (MCAP) is one of the most restrictive in Europe,” said Peter Reynolds, who is chair of the Cannabis Industry Council (CIC) Ireland working group and a long-time campaigner for drug reform.

“MCAP has completely excluded thousands of Irish people who suffer from chronic pain, the indication for which the medicine is most often prescribed.”

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Ireland former health boss to chair Citizens’ Assembly on drugs

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