Ireland’s Health Minister signed legislation last week which will allow citizens to gain limited access to medical cannabis under a pilot program that will last five years.
Medical marijuana legislation has progressed in many places around the world the last few years, particularly in Europe, but Ireland has taken a more conservative approach and didn’t allow patient to have access to medical marijuana up until now.
The pilot program will allow Irish doctors to prescribe medical marijuana products that meet government approval set out in the legislation, which will allow business opportunities for North America’s licensed producers to enter the market.
But the program will only allow limited access for patients once “standard treatments” have failed to solve issues relating to multiple sclerosis, chemotherapy and epilepsy. The wording of the legislation is ambiguous and gives medical professionals the power to make the call whether medical marijuana is justified to be used in a case-by-case basis.
The purpose of this [program] is to facilitate compassionate access to cannabis for medical reasons, where conventional treatment has failed.
Ultimately it will be the decision of the medical consultant, in consultation with their patient, to prescribe a particular treatment, including a cannabis-based treatment, for a patient under their care.
Aurora seeks Irish pot of gold
One company that has been vying to enter the Irish market is Aurora Cannabis Inc. (NYSE:ACB)(TSX:ACB), which has expanded its reach around the globe to 24 different countries. It sees the potential for growth in Ireland, and projects there could be as many as 50,000 patients with cannabis prescriptions within the first four years of it becoming available.
Earlier this year, the Edmonton-based cannabis company made it clear it was already anticipating the market to open up.
We are already allocating for Ireland in our production system.
Aurora wants to be one of the approved suppliers for Ireland and it believes it has the pedigree needed to gain the trust of government regualors.
But the challenge for Aurora is whether its global expansion efforts will pay off in the long run. The company could risk investing substantially into Ireland and not see desired results within the medical cannabis market for several years.
It’s one of the reasons investors have questioned Aurora’s strategy of spreading itself thin into many different markets around the globe. Each country has its own logistic and regulatory complexities, leaving many question marks around how lucrative an opportunity may really be.