Is Weed Legal in Ireland?
Is recreational weed legal in Ireland? What about medicinal marijuana? While some are looking for a pot of gold, others are just looking for the pot. Find out about Ireland’s cannabis laws.
We note that the subject contained in this article represents illegal activity in certain jurisdictions. Whilst we do not condone any acts which are contrary to any such laws, we understand that readers in those jurisdictions which have decriminalised cannabis may find this article of interest.
Cannabis legalization has become a centerpiece for discussion around the globe, with more and more countries relaxing their stance toward marijuana use.
In 2018, Canada became the 2nd country to legalize recreational cannabis after Uruguay, and since then, has also just legalized the full gamut of cannabis form factors such as edibles, extracts and concentrates.
11 states in America have also legalized recreational cannabis with Illinois most recently, with states like Colorado bringing in a whopping $1bn from tax revenue alone. Then there’s the Australian Capital Territory’s recent legalization of recreational cannabis, New Zealand’s upcoming cannabis referendum in early 2020, with Mexico potentially on the brink of legalization too.
It’s safe to say that times are changing when it comes to the legal status of weed around the world, and as a result, many are wondering if weed is legal in their own country. For some, this begs the question: Is weed legal in Ireland?
Is Weed Legal in the UK?
Is Recreational Weed Legal in Ireland?
In Ireland, cannabis was first made illegal in 1934 under the Dangerous Drugs Act, which became effective in 1937.
To this day, recreational cannabis use remains illegal, despite the fact that cannabis is the most popular illicit drug within Ireland, and cannabis consumption has become more prevalent over recent years, with 75% of drug-related arrests simply for possession.
However, the Dangerous Drugs Act of the 1930s has since been replaced by the Misuse of Drugs Act of 1977. Under the Misuse of Drugs Act, any person found in possession of cannabis or a cannabis derivative is guilty of an offense.
In the case of personal use and possession with no intent for distribution, a district court may impose what is known as a class D fine – a fine that doesn’t exceed €1,000. If, however, being caught with cannabis isn’t your first offense, you may wind up paying up to €2,500.
And for a third cannabis offense or any following it, the penalty can be up to 1 year in prison.
Though users are unlikely to end up in prison for simple cannabis possession. The Criminal Justice Amendment Act of 2011 pushes courts to consider imposing a community service order instead of a prison sentence in all cases in which up to 12 months imprisonment would have otherwise been the sentence.
And more recently, the Ireland government has been pushing to make cannabis legislation a health issue rather than a punitive one, with first-time drug possessors now being referred to Ireland’s Health Service Executive (HSE).
At the very least, this represents a shifting perspective toward marijuana use and an acknowledgment that previous drug laws have failed. Though conclusively, weed isn’t legal in Ireland for recreational use.
Everything You Need to Know About Medical Marijuana
Is Medicinal Marijuana Legal In Ireland?
In July 2019, Ireland began a five-year pilot program for medicinal cannabis.
Approved cannabis products will be dispensed from pharmacies, and costs will be covered by the HSE, granted that patients possess the qualifying medical conditions and that conventional treatments have been tried unsuccessfully.
“Today is a significant milestone,” Health Minister Simon Harris said in a statement. “The purpose of this program is to facilitate compassionate access to cannabis for medical reasons, where conventional treatment has failed.”
Cannabis medicines can be prescribed in attempts to treat multiple sclerosis, chemotherapy-related sicknesses and severe cases of epilepsy.
However, this limited approach by the government has received criticism for being too restrictive to those who could benefit from medicinal cannabis for symptoms outside of the three approved conditions.
Pamela Fowler whose 20-year-old son suffers from a rare sarcoma tumor that causes severe pain was granted a license for medicinal marijuana.
“To pump a young person full of all these opiates and to tell them about the importance of their mental health, and getting out and socialising…but if you’re zombified in the chair because you’ve taken so many meds to stop the pain, it’s very hard. So, we decided to look at medical cannabis and the difference in my son today is phenomenal,” Fowler said.
As a result of the limited eligibility and excessive bureaucracy surrounding medicinal cannabis, only a fractional 24 people in Ireland have been prescribed medicinal cannabis products.
So far, notable products like MGC Pharma’s CannEpil for treatment-resistant epilepsy and Aurora’s High CBD Oil Drops have received approval from the Irish authorities to be distributed throughout Ireland for medicinal use.
What’s The Difference Between CBD and THC?
Is CBD Legal in Ireland?
When it comes to whether Cannabidiol – CBD – is legal in Ireland, the laws are far from black and white.
While products such as Aurora’s High CBD Oil drops are available upon prescription for medicinal purposes, the laws surrounding CBD for recreational use in Ireland get much murkier.
European Union regulations state that hemp & CBD products are allowed ensuring they contain less than 0.2% THC. This is lower than the 0.3% THC allowed federally in the U.S., however, it does mean that CBD products would be legal in Ireland.
Though confusion arises when one looks at the Misuse of Drugs Act 1977 which states that all derivatives of cannabis and hemp containing THC are illegal. This suggests that isolate CBD is permissible for sale within Ireland, though CBD products must then also comply with the Novel Foods Act.
According to the Novel Foods act, if the CBD product is created by a method of extraction that existed prior to 1997, no authorization is required as the product is not considered a ‘Novel Food.’ For example, cold-pressed CBD does not require any sort of authorization, meaning it can be made and distributed throughout Ireland.
However, if the CBD was extracted through means of co2 for example, a method that was invented after 1997, then it is considered a ‘Novel Food’ and as such, requires authorization from the European Commission.
Evidently, the CBD laws in Ireland have a lot of confusion surrounding them, with some stores having CBD products confiscated by Irish police, despite having a product that is “tested as having less than 0.2 per cent [THC]and grown legally in Europe,” one store-owner said.
Already, The Irish Times has reported that at least four shops and cafes selling CBD products have had products confiscated by the police, with one store losing €10,000 worth of products such as CBD-based tea and hemp flowers.
Furthermore, The European Commission stated in January that CBD products should be considered a Novel Food and should not be sold without further evaluation and authorization.
As a result, several other governmental bodies have come forward sharing this sentiment, such as the Food Standards Authority in the UK, as well as authorities in Germany, who have agreed that CBD should be considered a Novel Food.
This could mean that anyone seeking to sell CBD products within Ireland will have to acquire the authorization to do so in advance, though in some regards this is already the case.
According to the Food and Safety Authority of Ireland, any product containing CBD in it “has been placed on the market without authorization and are not permitted for sale. As we become aware of such products their status on the market is addressed.”
Ultimately, CBD is far from readily legal in Ireland, with many conflicting perspectives and laws surrounding the distribution of cannabidiol. This is an issue that needs severe clarification in the months to come.
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Is weed legal in Ireland? Is Medicinal Marijuana legal in Ireland? Is CBD legal in Ireland? Find out about Ireland's weed laws in this article.
Cannabis in Ireland – Laws, Use, and History
Cannabis is illegal for recreational use in Ireland, nor can it be sold. However, despite the government’s relatively tough stance on prosecuting offenders, the country is surprisingly liberal regarding CBD and medical cannabis – both of which are legal. Ireland is also capitalising on the economic opportunities that industrial hemp offers.
- CBD Products
- Recreational cannabis
- Medicinal cannabis
Cannabis laws in Ireland
Can you possess and use cannabis in Ireland?
Possessing cannabis is illegal in Ireland, under the Misuse of Drugs Acts (1977-2016). Distinctions are made between possession for personal use and possession with intent to supply; and the punishments reflect this.
If you’re caught with cannabis for the first or second time, you may receive a fine of €1,000 in the District Courts. If the case leads to a conviction by indictment in the High Courts (for example, if the quantity of cannabis was deemed excessive), this fine can be extended to €1,270 for a first offence and €2,540 for a second.
Offend a third time (or more), and you may face a prison sentence. This is currently up to one year in prison for a summary conviction, and up to three years if you’re convicted on indictment.
The Criminal Justice (Community Service) Act 2011 means that courts must consider giving a community service order in place of a prison sentence, in all cases where up to a year’s imprisonment is deemed the right punishment.
Can you sell cannabis in Ireland?
Selling or supplying cannabis is also illegal in Ireland. Different penalties are imposed depending various factors, such as:
- The offender’s circumstances
- The type of drug
- The quantity of the cannabis seized
Any sale of controlled drugs such as cannabis can be punished with a fine of up to €2,500. This may also be accompanied by a prison sentence of up to a year.
For larger quantities, penalties can be as severe as life imprisonment, and the minimum sentence for selling cannabis is currently 10 years if the market value is €13,000 or higher. In 2013, this sentencing regime was protested by the Law Reform Commission, based on its presumptive nature.
Can you grow cannabis in Ireland?
Despite the fact that cannabis seeds are openly available in the country, it’s illegal to grow your own cannabis plants in Ireland. Cannabis cultivation equipment is also prohibited (in line with the Psychoactive Substances Act).
However, this hasn’t stopped some Irish people from attempting to grow it, and figures suggest that incidences of homegrown cannabis are on the rise. One operation alone saw police raid 60 major cannabis-producing factories. They seized plants with a total street value exceeding €6million.
Is CBD legal in Ireland?
Irish authorities recognise that CBD (cannabidiol) does not produce psychoactive effects and cannot be used to ‘get high’. As such, the law permits its sale (as long as THC levels are below 0.2%), and it’s not uncommon to see CBD oil in health shops across the country.
Despite this, CBD is not currently listed as a medical product by the Health Products Regulatory Authority (HPRA). This means that doctors cannot currently prescribe it as a treatment option.
Some experts, such as Professor David Finn (NUI Galway) are concerned that CBD is not recognised as a medical treatment, and want to see its sale and supply more tightly regulated. “It’s very hard to know exactly what the composition of some of the products is,” he tells The Journal. “Some of them aren’t tested rigorously for quality control. So there can be batch to batch differences.”
He adds that: “some of these preparations are referred to as CBD oil or cannabis oil, which usually means it’s an oil extracted from the plant. But the cannabis plant is extremely complex, it has over 700 constituents in it, about 114 of these are cannabinoids.”
In 2018, the FDA in the USA approved Epidiolex as a medicine. It’s believed that Ireland may follow in the footsteps of the USA, and start to recognise CBD as a medical product, which in turn would lead to better regulation.
Can cannabis seeds be sent to Ireland?
It’s legal to purchase and sell cannabis seeds in Ireland. You can also legally receive them in the post from other countries. However, using them to grow cannabis plants is illegal.
Medicinal cannabis in Ireland
Cannabis was legalised for medical use in 2014. The license was limited to just one product, Sativex, and it could only be prescribed to MS patients. Ongoing disagreements regarding pricing and distribution mean that, at the time of writing, Ireland has yet to issue a single prescription for it.
The Department of Health issued a statement in 2018, claiming that officials had met with regulatory bodies and other stakeholders in cannabis production and supply, in Denmark. “The aim of these meetings,” it was claimed, “was to hear about the Danish cannabis access programme and enquire if a supply of medical cannabis products could be sourced.”
Health Minister Simon Harris told The Journal that the medical cannabis scheme was making “huge progress”, but acknowledged the challenges of obtaining a continuous, high-quality supply.
Industrial hemp in Ireland
Industrial hemp cultivation is legal in Ireland. In fact, it’s been grown in the country for centuries but was banned in the 20 th century when public perceptions of cannabis began to turn negative.
In 1995, the Irish government recognised the economic value of industrial hemp. They also acknowledged its use as a source of sustainable oil and fibre. To cultivate hemp, the farmer must possess a valid licence from the Department of Health and Children, and the licence must be renewed each year. Plantations must also be located away from public roads, and all plants must contain 0.2% THC or less.
As yet, the industrial hemp industry hasn’t really taken off in Ireland – but there is potential for it to grow in the future.
Good to know
If you are travelling to Ireland (or currently live there), you may be interested to know the following:
- 13.8% of young adults (15 to 34 years old) use cannabis in Ireland.
- Some political parties have called for personal use of cannabis to be legalised. The Green Party are a notable example, who want recreational use to be decriminalised, but cultivation to be limited to ‘two plants per private residence’.
- The economic potential of Ireland’s medical cannabis market is huge. Figures show there are currently 12,000 Parkinson’s sufferers, 8,000 MS sufferers, and 12-14,000 fibromyalgia sufferers. This is in addition to 40,000 people suffering from epilepsy. Experts estimate that providing cannabis treatment to these patients could increase the market’s value to €1.1billion by 2028.
Political parties and cannabis
Opinions on cannabis are split in Irish politics. Fine Gael (the largest political party, and traditionally right-of-centre) stated in 2013 that “it is not the intention of the government to legalise the use of cannabis either for medical or recreational reasons.” However, they were in favour of legalising Sativex. Labour (who are left-of-centre) surprisingly adopted the same position.
Fianna Fail (the third largest party) supports legalisation for medical purposes but not “for any other circumstances” and the Socialist and Green Parties both support legalisation of cannabis, even for recreational use. The Socialist Party added: “it should be made available through a State monopoly with accompanying safeguards for harm minimisation and education about the effects of use.”
Cannabis in the USA – Laws, Use and History
Attitudes to cannabis
A 2016 study found that cannabis use was widespread among teenagers (15-18 year olds), with 39.3% of participants claiming they’d used it. It also found that most of these adolescents regarded cannabis as ‘low risk’ in terms of producing mental or physical health problems.
A further study explored the opinions of general practitioners working in the country. Although the majority were against legalising cannabis for recreational use, many agreed that it should be permitted for medical purposes.
Although there is still some hostility towards cannabis use in Ireland, it seems that attitudes are changing rapidly. Medical cannabis is regarded by several as beneficial, with few speaking out against it.
Ireland and the ‘green rush’
Niall Neligan, the founder of the drug policy law reform group, Fweed, put forward a proposal to revolutionise cannabis regulation – and inject €300million into the country’s economy by 2025.
The plans aim to eliminate the black market, protect children, and offer benefits to both public health and scientific research. It’s anticipated that the framework will create 15,000 jobs, and will also transform Ireland into a major European centre for cannabis over the next decade.
If adopted, pharmacies would be able to sell medical cannabis to certified patients, and licenced social clubs could be established for recreational users. Adults would be allowed to buy up to 60 grams per month (15 grams per week) and gift five grams or below. In addition, six plants could be cultivated at home for personal use (with only three flowering at any time). For medical patients, this would be increased to 12 (with six flowering at any time).
Neligan put forward a passionate argument to the government, stating that Ireland shouldn’t be held back by “relying on outdated policies born out of ignorance and social conservatism.” He also stated that, by taking control of cannabis, the criminal industry would lose its power. “No drug,” he claimed, “has ever been made safer in the hands of criminal gangs.”
Cannabis in Ethiopia – Laws, Use, and History
Will cannabis be legalised in the future?
Neligan’s plans mark clear interest from the government in terms of exploring options; both for public safety and health, and for the economy of the country. Likewise, the recent steps taken to make medical cannabis more widely available is an indication that attitudes are changing.
Ireland may well follow in the footsteps of Canada and regulate both medical and recreational use of cannabis. Only time will tell if this happens or not.
Cannabis is illegal in Ireland, but CBD is not. This progressive stance may mean things change further in the future. Read on to learn more.