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30 January 2017
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Irish family doctors support legalisation of cannabis for therapeutic use

A unique survey of Irish family doctors has found that the majority support the legalisation of cannabis for therapeutic use, but do not support the Government's policy on the decriminalisation of cannabis.

The survey, carried out online by the Irish College of General Practitioners, found that the majority of Irish family doctors had significant concerns about the mental and physical health risks of cannabis use.

The survey was published in the Harm Reduction Journal in January 2017.

Main findings

  • Over half (58.6%) of family doctors supported the legalisation of cannabis for medical use.
  • Over half (56.8%) of Irish family doctors did not support the decriminalisation of cannabis.
  • A significantly higher percentage of male doctors (40.6%) supported the decriminalisation of cannabis than female doctors (15%).
  • Over 80% of both genders supported the view that cannabis use has a significant effect on patients' mental health and increases the risk of schizophrenia (77.3%).
  • Over 60% agreed that cannabis can have a role in palliative care, pain management and treatment of multiple sclerosis (MS).

Dr Des Crowley, Assistant Director of the Substance Misuse Programme in the ICGP said "There has been a lot of debate on the subject of the legalisation of cannabis recently, and this unique study gives us a good insight into the views of General Practitioners on this issue. This national survey shows that they don't support the legalisation of cannabis, but do see a role for the medicinal use of the drug, especially in palliative care and the care of patients with multiple sclerosis."

Dr Crowley added: "This is a very timely study and we hope it will be considered within the ongoing debate on substance misuse in Ireland. General practitioners in Ireland see at first hand the impact of drug misuse, and like their international colleagues, believe that heavy use of cannabis in younger people can heighten the risk of dependence and mental health problems including depression and schizophrenia."

The national online survey was carried out by in early 2016, with a 15% response rate (565 responses). This rate, while low, corresponds with similar responses to online surveys nationally and internationally.

The full details of this study can be found here.

The Irish College of General Practitioners is the professional and training body for general practitioners in Ireland.

Dr Des Crowley is available for interview.

Media queries

Aileen O'Meara,
Communications Consultant, ICGP
T: 01 5175311 / 087 2239830 
E:, Twitter: @ICGPnews