A greener Ireland with cannabis legislation

A Greener Ireland: Medical Cannabis use and Regulation

With CBD and medical cannabis hitting the media by storm across the globe— there are still plenty of Irish people with unanswered questions. What are the medical marijuana laws in Ireland? Is medical cannabis legal for treating certain medical conditions? Seeing as CBD is from cannabis, is it also illegal?— What’s the story?

There is widespread confusion in the Emerald Isle over what cannabinoids (the chemical compounds found in the cannabis plant i.e THC and Cannabidiol (CBD)) are legal for what treatments. As a result— cannabis educators and advocates behind the bill are holding a multidisciplinary conference at the Smock Alley Theatre in Dublin called The Global Medical Cannabis Summit. It aims to discuss the possible introduction of the cannabis plant to Irish society.

Movement to Decriminalize Medical Cannabis in Ireland

Back in July 2016— An opposition TD introduced a bill in the Dáil that would look at legalizing medical cannabis. Anti-Austerity Alliance/People Before Profit deputy Bríd Smith noticed a large demand for such medication by numerous groups of people who suffer from poor health. She stated; those suffering from multiple sclerosis (MS), Dravet syndrome and other severe seizure disorders use cannabis oil to help treat their condition— while those living with cancer use cannabis oil as a form of reducing the symptoms of nausea and vomiting associated with cancer treatments i.e radiation and chemotherapy. Smith said “Cannabis oil can help a great deal to prevent the seizures that take place,“.

“Really what we are trying to do is to facilitate the use of cannabis and cannabis related products for medicinal purposes. These would be the ones that are already experimented on and would clearly have to be subscribed by a medical practitioner, particularly by a consultant”

“[A]uthority would be bearing the costs that may occur to the State as a result”— and therefore Smith wants to establish a Cannabis Regulation Authority. Restrictions will have to be made on growing, selling and distributing the plant. Other provisions will have to introduced such as advertising, promoting, labeling and testing the plant.

The bill to legalise cannabis for medical purposes eventually passed the second reading in the Dáil Éireann.

In November 2016, Minister of State for New Communities, Culture, Equality and Drug Strategy, Aodhán Ó Ríordáin backed the decriminalisation of the possession of cannabis (in small amounts) and raised the issue of legalizing medical cannabis use in the Dáil.

I am in favour of a decriminalisation model, but it must be one that suits the Irish context and be evidence based.
I believe that this kind of approach will only work if it is accompanied by timely treatment and harm reduction services, backed up by wrap-around supports which foster recovery – such as housing, health and social care”

He further states that his department are “aware that cannabis for medicinal use has been legalised in some countries and that there has been several studies internationally on the therapeutic effects of cannabinoids for a number of medical issues”.

The big thing here, is the red tape. Due to the fact that under Irish and EU legislation— any medicine can be introduced onto the irish market, however, the manufacturer must seek authorisation from the EMA— European Medicines Agency and the HPRA— Health Products Regulatory Authority. “Subsequently the HPRA granted a marketing authorisation for a cannabis-based medicinal product which is indicated for the relief of certain symptoms for people with multiple sclerosis.”

While there are ministers and TD’s pushing to legalize medical cannabis, of course there is the opposing side. Health Minister James Reilly said that the government will not and should not change its policy regarding medical cannabis as it is described as a “gateway drug” and citing “serious concerns about the health impacts”.

A member from Fianna Fáil explained: “If the sale of cannabis was to be permitted, it would create a benign environment for illicit drug use to flourish.”

For now, cannabis still remains a schedule 1 drug. However, use for medical purposes require approval by the Minister of health. One major organisation is campaigning for it’s legalisation in Ireland— which is known as NORML Ireland. It aims to support and remove all penalties for cannabis cultivation for personal use, private possession of cannabis (in small amounts), while also supporting the development of a regulated, quality controlled (and legal) cannabis market. NORML Ireland state “Cannabis is not a Drug. It is a plant that has been demonised and misclassified though corrupt political and corporate propaganda. Enforced in Ireland because of American foreign policy”.

After Canada passed the bill to legalise medical and recreational cannabis, Taoiseach Leo Varadkar made a statement on how the decriminalisation of cannabis was under consideration’.

If Medical Cannabis is Illegal in Ireland, Is CBD also Illegal?

In short, the answer is no— CBD is legal to purchase and consume. CBD is not illegal under the Misuse Drugs Act, however, it is still not considered to be a recognised— legal therapeutic. Therefore, it’s not approved by the Health Products Regulatory Authority.

David Finn, professor of pharmacology and therapeutics at NUI Galway stated, “In Ireland, we can buy CBD so long as it contains less than 0.2% THC. People can buy it online, in health food stores, and in some pharmacies. They can use it legally,”.

He also mentions why CBD— the oil extracts from the cannabis plant can be used as a therapeutic.

“Inflammatory pain is one of the key disorders that CBD has been proposed for— such as low back pain and arthritic pain. Another key disorder where there is some published evidence for efficacy is childhood epilepsy. And there’s some limited evidence that CBD could be useful for psychiatric disorders including anxiety disorders.”

For now, medical cannabis has so leeway with the law to treat chronic and severe health cases— while CBD is treated more so as a food supplement and can be used by anyone, but please, make sure to first consult your doctor. They will advice you on dosing and the best methods of consuming CBD for your lifestyle.

Disclaimer: I am not sponsored by any cannabis-based company, of any sort. My opinions and my experiences are my own and genuine.