The C-Word: Irish Parliament Member Gino Kenny Talks Éire Cannabis

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Ireland
has
undergone
a
dramatic
evolution
in
cannabis
policy
over
the
last
four
years.
Even
if
he’d
prefer
that
you
focus
on
the
activist
families
who
demanded
regulation
for
their
sick
kids,
that’s
thanks
in
large
part
to
pressure
from
politicians
like
Gino
Kenny. 

“You
couldn’t
even
mention
the
c-word,”
reminisced
the
socialist
Teachta
Dála
[a.k.a.
member
of
the
country’s
lower
house
of
Parliament
or
Dáil],
who
represents
an
area
of
West
Dublin. 

Kenny
was
in
the
middle
of
a
heated

re-election
campaign

when
High
Times
paid
a
visit
to
his
headquarters
in
the
town
of
Clondalkin.
On
the
walls
were
signs
pointing
to
his
dedication
to
social
justice;
a
poster
with
the
Palestine
flag,
a
quote
from
Martin
Luther
King
Jr.
hanging
over
the
front
door,
and
a
tribute
by
the
bookshelf
to
Bernadette
Devlin,
the
radical
Northern
Ireland
politician
historically
elected
to
Parliament
at
the
age
of
21. 

We
were
there
to
understand
how
the
nose
ring-wearing
politician
went
from
working
in
healthcare
for
senior
citizens
to

walking
across
the
country

with
families
seeking
cannabis
treatment
for
sick
kids.
Kenny
shared
what
it
took
to
introduce
the
country’s
first
successful
medical
marijuana
legislation,
which

passed
last
year

and
will
reportedly
start
supplying
patients
with
heavily
subsidized
medicine
within
the
next
couple
of
months. 

The
frank-mouthed,
notoriously
casually
attired
lawmaker
also
taught
us
some
key
Irish
nomenclature
— proving
himself
chalk
and
cheese
compared
to
the
average
carefully-spoken
politico
in
a
suit. 

The C-Word: Irish Parliament Member Gino Kenny Talks Éire Cannabis
Photo
Credit:
Caitlin
Donohue


What
was
your
original
impetus
to
get
involved
with
cannabis
issues?
You
told
me
that
until
recently
the
drug
was
extremely
taboo
in
Ireland. 

GINO
KENNY:
Just
before
I
was
first
elected,
a
family
from
Clondalkin
contacted
me
in
relation
to
CBD.
I’ll
be
honest
with
you,
I
didn’t
know
what
they
were
talking
about.
Their
granddaughter
Erica
has
Dravet
syndrome,
a
form
of
epilepsy.
There’s
been
a
lot
of
research
in
the
United
States
and
different
places
[that
suggests
that] CBD
can
be
quite
effective
for
the
condition.
There
was
a
prior
bill
by
[current
member
of
the
European
Parliament
and
noted
Irish
cannabis
activist] Luke
Flanagan

in
2013

for
the
legalization
for
medical
and
recreational
use.
Basically,
I
looked
to
his
bill
and
separated
the
recreational
side
from
the
medical
side.
Just
before
I
was
going
to
submit
it,
Vera
Twomey
arrived.
Her
daughter
Ava
had
the
same
syndrome
as
Erica,
Dravet
syndome
epilepsy
[author’s
note:
Twomey

wrote
a
book

on
their
family’s
journey
to
get
cannabis
treatment
for
Ava] and
she
was
looking
to
get
access
to
cannabis-based
products,
CBD. 

I
submitted
the
medical
cannabis
bill
in
2016.
I
was
nervous
doing
it,
but
overall
the
response
was
very,
very
positive.
And
the
rest
is
history,
in
some
ways.
That
was
three
and
a
half
years
ago,
and
people’s
understanding
of
the
issue
has
changed
fundamentally.
It’s
like
chalk
and
cheese. 


Sorry

chalk
and
cheese?

GINO
KENNY:
It’s
fundamentally
different.
Medical
cannabis
is
now
legal
in
Ireland.
It
took
a
lot
of
heartache,
a
lot
of
tears
and
sweat,
a
lot
of
persuasion
and
a
lot
of
frustration
to
actually
get
to
this
point.
But
we
pushed
the
government
into
changing
the
policy. 


How
would
you
critique
the
current
Irish
medical
marijuana
system?

GINO
KENNY:
Well,
it’s
not
up
and
running
at
the
moment
— it
will
be
sometime
early
this
year.
The
medical
cannabis
access
program,
which
was
basically
recommended
three
years
ago
from
the
health
regulation
board
HPRA
[Health
Products
Regulatory
Authority] three
years
ago.
To
this
day,
nobody,
not
one
person
has
been
prescribed
medical
cannabis
in
this
state.


What
would
you
say
that
the
delay
has
been
due
to?

GINO
KENNY:
Institutionalized
resistance
from
the
very,
very
top. 


Within
the
health
system?

GINO
KENNY:
From
everywhere.
From
all
strands
in
relation
to
this
issue.
But
I
think
it’s
going
to
start
very
soon,
within
the
next
couple
months.
The
program
stipulates
three
[qualifying] conditions;
drug
resistant
epilepsy,
spasticity
associated
with
multiple
sclerosis,
and
side
effects
of
chemotherapy. 


You’ve
mentioned
that
you
personally
are
in
favor
of
recreational
legalization.
Do
you
see
that
as
a
political
possibility
for
Ireland
at
some
point?

GINO
KENNY:
I
think
so,
in
the
future.
[Cannabis
consumers] were
once
demonized.
But
that’s
changed
dramatically.
If
somebody
wants
to
use
cannabis,
that’s
their
business.
To
keep
driving
it
underground,
it
just
compounds
the
issue,
and
essentially
hasn’t
worked.


You’ve
also
been
very
honest
about
your



past
usage
of
other
drugs


like
ecstasy.
Why
was
it
important
to
you
to
get
that
out
there?

GINO
KENNY:
Well,
[it
was] just
[that] somebody
asked
me!
I
wasn’t
going
to
say
“I’ve
used
drugs
before”
because
I’ve
seen
the
dark
side
of
drugs,
the
absolute
horrendous
effects
they
can
have
on
individuals
and
communities.
You
can’t
glamorize
drug
use.
But
people
use
drugs
whether
we
like
it
or
not,
you
know?
I’m
not
a
cannabis
user
as
such.
It’s
not
a
big
part
of
my
life.
But
if
people
want
to
use
it,
so
be
it.


My
next
question
is
more
of
a
translation
request
for
our
readers
outside
of
Ireland.
You
used
a
certain
term
to
express



frustration
over
a
drag
on
medical
marijuana
legislation


at
one
point.
It
was
“kip”.
Can
you
explain
what
that
word
means?

GINO
KENNY:
The
government
used
a
veto
on
two
occasions
to
stop
[our
medical
marijuana
bill] from
progressing.
It’s
extremely
frustrating

when
you
see
people
who
could
benefit
from
medical
cannabis
suffer,
that
fucking
really
gets
on
my
fucking
wick.
It
really,
really
annoys
me
when
these
assholes
in
suits
are
trying
to
prevent
and
play
politics
with
it.
And
that’s
why
I
called
the
place
a
kip.
Kip
is
like
a
dive,
a
mess.
It’s
a
very
Dublin
word.
Obviously
I
take
the
job
very
seriously,
but
in
that
moment
I
called
the
Dáil
a
kip.
I
got
reprimanded,
but
I
didn’t
apologize
for
it.
I
was
thinking,
Brexit
will
be
essentially
finalized
by
the
end
of
the
month,
right?
Medical
cannabis
[legislation
was
approved] on
a
similar
timeline
to
Brexit,
and
still
hasn’t
been
finalized.
There’s
one
direction
that
this
is
going;
people
will
have
greater
[cannabis] access
over
time.
But
nothing
was
going
to
be
easy.


Ireland’s
medicinal
cannabis
regulations
does
not
allow
for
production,
excluding
potential
Irish
businesses
from
participating
in
what’s
becoming
a
massive
global
industry.
Are
there
people
that
are
interested
in
creating
a
cannabis
industry
here?

GINO
KENNY:
There’s
a
huge
amount
of
people
who
are
interested
in
growing
it
here.
Yeah,
so
that
is
in
train.
I
know
the
Department
of
Health
has
been
talking
about
an
indigenous
medical
cannabis
industry
in
Ireland.
I
think
in
the
future,
definitely.
But
at
the
moment,
they
have
to
import
particular
products,
GMP
[Good
Manufacturing
Practices,
a
European
certification
board] products. 


What
would
you
like
the
rest
of
the
world,
the
cannabis
world,
to
know
about
where
Ireland
stands
today?

GINO
KENNY:
Well
at
this
moment
in
time,
medical
cannabis
is
legal,
and
the
program
will
be
up
and
running
in
2020.
It’s
been
a
long,
long
process.
Where
we
came
from,
back
even
four
years
ago,
was
nothing.
Zip,
zero,
nothing.
The
people
that
have
drove
this
forward
and
who
have
been
cutting
edge
of
greater
access
hasn’t
been
people
like
me,
it
has
been
parents
of
children
or
individuals
who
are
quite
ill
that
have
seen
the
benefits
of
cannabis.
Theirs
are
the
narratives
that
have
driven
the
wedge
into
something
completely
draconian. 

There’s
another
sphere
to
this
as
a
socialist.
I
think
there
are
alarm
bells
that
need
to
be
rang
about
corporate
cannabis.
If
people
want
to
make
money,
that’s
fine.
But
you
can
see
how
corporate
cannabis
is
circling
the
wagons
to
make
a
huge
amount
of
profits,
and
that
has
to
be
resisted
as
much
as
possible.
This
is
about
patients,
it’s
about
people,
it’s
about
farmers,
it’s
about
workers
that
work
with
these
plants.
It’s
about
sustainability
and
people
getting
access
relatively
cheaply
to
these
products

and
it’s
not
to
be
monopolized
for
huge
profits.

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