Trinity Summit Set to Shape the Future of Cannabis in Ireland

This September, the Science Gallery Dublin, within the walls of the illustrious Trinity College, will host the inaugural Trinity Summit. Comprised of four panels and themes – science, government/policy, campaigning, and business – the summit will bring together experts on medical cannabis from all over the world to discuss the major developments of the past decade, and to plan ways forward from here.

“The first Western scientific article on cannabis-based medicine was published by Irish-born Sir William O’Shaughnessy in 1837. Almost 180 years later “the country of Saints and Scholars” hosts cannabinoid research in four of its universities, signifying a place for scientific discovery and leading academic thought.  Set in the distinguished Trinity Science Gallery, this inaugural Summit showcases trending issues in the vast area of medical cannabis.”

So says Graham de Barra, director of Help Not Harm Ireland, the drug policy reform organisation he co-founded with Paul Birch (founder of Bebo), which has been featured on RTÉ Radio One, Today FM, thejournal.ie, Newstalk and RTÉ 2 documentary “Reality Bites”. “The aim,” he says, “is to make this the most global cannabis event in the world, by putting the focus on diversity.”

Help Not Harm are hosting the event, in association with Volte Face, and have already put together an impressive roster of speakers, with more to be announced over the coming days and weeks. Key speakers already signed up to the event include Dr Arno Hazekamp, chief scientist at Bedrocan BV, official supplier of medical cannabis in the Netherlands.

Also on board are Dr Catherine Jacobson, Director of Clinical Research at Canadian medical cannabis giant Tilray, Tim Colbourne, the former deputy chief of staff to Nick Clegg, and Charlo Green, the Alaskan newsreader who famously quit her job live on air in order to focus on running a dispensary and campaigning for policy reform in the United States.

The summit comes at a vital time for drug policy in the Republic. Last year, it seemed as though change was imminent – Irish President Michael D. Higgins spoke passionately about the harm caused by prohibitionist policy, and was backed up in his views by Garda Commissioner Noirin O’Sullivan.

Since then, there has been a General Election in Ireland, but the outlook is still positive according to Graham de Barra. He explained to me that not only do four political parties – the Greens, People Before Profit, Social Democrats and Sinn Fein – now openly support medical cannabis, there has also been real change in terms of policy.

“The achievement from the last year has been a commitment by the new Government to make drugs a health issue, which has been included in the Programme of Government.” He explained, “In the 2 months of Government we have a Misuse of Drugs Bill being voted in the houses of Parliament as well as a new national drugs strategy which we advise.

“There is a bigger priority given to the issue of drugs more generally and we are engaging with politicians increasingly in relation to medical cannabis and decriminalisation specifically. It is likely that small incremental changes will be introduced over this Government, guided by a wider mandate to move to a health approach to drugs.”

Times are changing in Ireland then, and the inauguration of the largest cannabis summit ever seen in the British Isles will be sure to add to that momentum. Now is a crucial time for law makers in the country, who will need all the help and advice they can get to ensure that change happens quickly but responsibly. This meeting of minds can only be of benefit to that cause.

Deej Sullivan
Deej Sullivan is a writer and activist from the UK. He regularly writes on drug policy and politics for NORML UK, the UKCSCs, London Real, Politics.co.uk and his own blog, www.thedomesticextremist.co.uk

 

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