A bill legalizing cannabis for medical purposes passed through the Dáil last week, meaning that medical marijuana could soon be available in Ireland for patients suffering from conditions such as cancer, epilepsy, multiple sclerosis and chronic pain. The bill, which was sponsored by People Before Profit’s Gino Kenny, had secured the backing of more than 90 TDs before being passed to committee stage. The Fine Gael government said it would not stand in the way of the bill, which would give physicians the power to decide if their patients would benefit from the drug.

The families of seriously ill children welcomed the news, the Irish Mirror reports. Cannabis oil could help young children such as  six-year-old Erica Cawley who suffers from Dravet Syndrome, a rare condition that causes constant life-threatening epileptic seizures. Erica, from Clondalkin, West Dublin, suffered from more than 200 seizures a day and was unable to walk or talk. She was unable to take anti-epilepsy medication as it put her in cardiac arrest, but her family says using Charlotte’s Web oil, which contains a low dose of THC, drastically increases Erica’s quality of life.

Said Kenny: “I had reservations about bringing this forward myself but the more I spoke with parents and their children, the more I’m completely convinced this will benefit a lot of people that need it.

“In a situation where traditional drugs don’t work for somebody, you would do anything to try alleviate that pain. And medical cannabis does work for people and I’ve seen that.”

Cannabis-based medicines have been shown to offer significant relief to chronically-ill patients suffering from nausea, muscle spasms, poor appetite, and pain.

The legislation bill will now pass to the committee stage, which Health Minister Simon Harris said would not proceed until January, when a review by the Health Products Regulatory Authority on the scientific and clinical value of medicinal cannabis is expected to be completed.

Harris said: “As Minister for Health I have to make decisions based on the best clinical advice and for that reason I have to stress the importance of receiving the recommendations of the HPRA before the Bill would move on to the legislative scrutiny stage at committee.

“It is my hope that the work of the HPRA, the work of the Oireachtas committee and the progression of this bill will dovetail so we can arrive at the right solution in the best interests of patients.”

He added that amendments would need to be made to the legislation to avoid making cannabis legal for recreational use. Kenny said the would accept the changes.

Kenny told RTE: “It's been overwhelming, not only in the Dail, but to see the people who have contacted us and who are trying to access medical cannabis for themselves or their children.”

"I even got emails this morning saying that 'if this goes through it will change my life'. If this can do something small for somebody, it's a very, very positive thing that's happened."

Medical marijuana is set to be legalized in Ireland.iStock/Getty Images