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?

Let's find out.

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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However, the Dangerous Drugs Act of the 1930s has since been replaced by the Misuse of Drugs Act of 1977.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.

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.

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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Louis O'Neill
Louis O'Neill

Louis is a writer based in Sydney with a focus on social and political issues. Having interviewed local politicians and entrepreneurs, Louis now focuses on cannabis culture, legislation & reform.

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