Irish Cannabis Refugees: Mother forced to travel to Barcelona for epileptic son’s medicinal cannabis

  • Michael O’Neil, 2, is diagnosed with severe, drug-resistant epilepsy, suffering up to 20 seizures a day
  • Michael has been prescribed 10 pharmaceutical medications, all of which have failed
  • His mother, Noreen, is now being forced to travel to Europe to obtain medical cannabis
  • Noreen has already previously had THC medication from Barcelona confiscated at the airport
  • She believes her child’s condition could “nosedive” over Christmas without THC
  • The brave mother has called for the Irish Health Minister to legalise medical cannabis to help thousands of children like Michael

An Irish mother of a toddler who suffers from severe epilepsy is being forced to take her family to Barcelona to get life-saving medical cannabis containing THC for her son.

Noreen O’Neil, son of Michael, 2, who suffers bilateral frontal polymicrogyria, a drug-resistant form of epilepsy, has already had THC confiscated by Irish authorities the last time she tried to bring it into Ireland from Barcelona earlier in December.

Ms O’Neill, from Kerry, Ireland, travelled to Barcelona on Monday to meet consultants who have agreed to give Michael THC medication. Noreen’s first attempt to bring THC into Ireland from Barcelona ended in heartbreak. Ms. O’Neil was searched upon arrival, with the medication being confiscated by officials.

Medical cannabis epilepsy chil
Putting a brave smile on: Michael battles severe epilepsy; his mother believes THC is his only hope

Ms. O’Neill was immediately stopped by customs staff at Dublin Airport following her flight from Barcelona.

After being escorted to a private room by officials, Noreen was cautioned. Officials searched her bags, but she eventually voluntarily handed over the medical cannabis (three 10ml bottles).

While officials were reportedly empathetic to Noreen and Michael’s cause, they still confiscated the bottles, each containing 250 drops of cannabis tincture, which would have provided Michael with essential medication for several months.

Noreen described the painful ordeal to

“I was looking at it on the sideboard, thinking of everything I’d gone through to get it – and it’s just three small bottles. But it could transform Michael’s life.

“To think that it could just go into a bin somewhere, or be destroyed, and to think of what it’s capable of, that’s what’s criminal here.

I felt like a target, like a criminal target, the moment I got off the plane.

“They were watching me, and had been spotted and were radioing ahead as I walked along the corridor.

“I knew they’d be waiting for me, I knew I was going to be intercepted. It was a chilling feeling.”

Before trying to bring THC into Ireland, Noreen did everything by the doctor’s books.

Michael was prescribed 10 different pharmaceutical medications before he was 16-months-old, all of which failed to help end his suffering.

epilepsy child birthday hospital, Irish medical cannabis
Michael celebrates his 2nd Birthday in hospital

The 2-year-old now takes CBD oil, which has given him a more normal life. Michael is now able to sit up, smile, and lift his arms, legs and head. Before CBD, he was fed through his nose as he was unable to swallow.

I felt like a target, like a criminal target, the moment I got off the plane.
– Noreen O’Neil, Cannabis Warrior Mother

Speaking to the Irish Examiner, Noreen explained why she was campaigning for Michael’s access to medical cannabis:

“I don’t want to sneak around. They can stop me if they like. There is nowhere to go from here.

“I have been to three neurologists for Michael and they have all refused (to prescribe THC). I have tried all the medications prescribed to him. None of them worked and they all had side effects.

“We will be home in Kerry for Christmas and I can’t have Michael’s condition going downhill without having something to give him. If he does nosedive the hospital can’t do anything for him.

“I need to have the THC in my hand to give to him.”

While Michael’s condition has vastly improved since beginning CBD treatment, Noreen believes that he requires THC in order to have the best chance of having control over his epilepsy.

Noreen described Michael as “at death’s door,” when she first decided to give him CBD in January 2017. Three days later he was seizure-free.

Like many cannabis warrior mothers, Noreen’s story has resonated with countless other mother’s whose children are going through a similar ordeal, with many of them reaching out to Noreen.

“I have had parents coming to me whose children are having 70 seizures a day,” Noreen explained to the IE.

“The family are in an awful way. What do you say?”

Irish mother and child smiling kitchen
Noreen and Michael enjoying time together

Inspired by the plight of Michael and other children in need of medical cannabis, Noreen is continuing to take the fight to the Irish politicians who have the power to help those in desperate need:

“We demand that no further delay be allowed by logistical negotiations between the HPRA and potential pharmaceutical distributors here.

“I have said in previous correspondence to Minister Harris (Ireland’s Health Minister), and now I say it to each official of the HPRA; there will be no let-up in our efforts to secure this life-changing medicine for our children.

“Our backs are to the wall. We have tried and failed every other option. We cannot and will not stop pursuing every avenue to obtain what our children need to stay alive.”

Ireland’s Department of Health has passed responsibility from themselves to individual doctors, claiming that the decision to prescribe any treatment, including medical cannabis, for individual patients lies strictly on the treating clinician, and that Minister for Health has no role in this clinical decision-making process.

Progress for patients trying to access medical cannabis in Ireland has been slow, with only 12 import licenses for cannabis medications being granted so far.

How much longer can Governments in Ireland and the UK deny access to medical cannabis to their citizens?

Forcing severely ill children and their families to travel, sometimes even relocating, abroad for potentially life-saving medication is morally reprehensible. More must be asked of our politicians.