Cannabis as an entire plant is illegal in Ireland, meaning that any substance whether it be cannabis flower or cannabis oil containing THC is illegal in Ireland. While medicinal cannabis is technically legal in Ireland there have been a very limited number of prescriptions and requires a case by case approval by the minister of health.
A bill to legalise medical cannabis passed its second reading in Dail Eireann in December of 2016.
Medical Cannabis in Ireland
In February of 2017 the Irish health minister Simon Harris, recommended that medical cannabis should be made available to those with specific medical conditions. In Ireland, The Cannabis for Medical Use Report makes eight recommendations all of which were compiled by the Health Products Authority (HPA) stating that cannabis has prospective therapeutic advantages and that the HPA is in agreement that there is a need from extensive clinical trials to truly prove the efficacy and safety of prescribing cannabis.
While medical cannabis has the capacity to be available through prescription there appears to be a distinct lack of willingness to embrace cannabis as an alternative medication. Without the backing of the medical community, it will not be conceivable for cannabis to become widely available in Ireland. The Irish government claims that prescriptions will be reviewed, however there are hardly any doctors who have any expertise in medical cannabis.
If a health product is to be sold in Ireland, all of the ingredients need to be granted ‘medicine’ status. This has yet to materialise for CBD or any other cannabinoids or cannabis derivatives.
There was an attempt in 2016 to change the status of CBD oil in Ireland. The Cannabis for Medicinal Use Regulation bill was rejected by the Irish government. The lead to a substantial investigation into CBD’s beneficial properties. This resulted in a report that was published in 2017, the report demonstrated that there was significant evidence for the therapeutic and health benefits of CBD oil and medical cannabis.
The Irish Health Department then concluded to legalise medical cannabis, but CBD was not granted its full medicine status. In Ireland, medical cannabis has only been permitted thus far for treating multiple sclerosis, epilepsy and chemotherapy. In all cases, there is a very narrow and specific set of circumstances that resulted in a patient obtaining a medical cannabis prescription. All other treatment options must have been tried and have had no positive effect for medical cannabis to be prescribed.
Hemp Regulations in Ireland
Ireland has a detailed history of growing hemp. The Irish hemp industry was significantly disrupted by the global paradigm shift to criminalising cannabis.
Under Irish Law, Cannabis sativa (hemp) is classed as a controlled drug under the Misuse of Drugs Regulations and the possession of cannabis in Ireland is deemed to be an offence. To allow for the development of a hemp industry, a licence to grow approved varieties of hemp can be issued.
In 1995, the Irish government assessed hemp as a possible source of sustainable fibre and oil that operates within EU regulation. It is therefore legal to cultivate EU-approved varieties of hemp and the hemp must not contain more that 0.2% THC. The hemp cultivator must also possess a valid licence from the Department of Health and Children.
What is CBD?
CBD is short form for cannabidiol. CBD is one of over 150 cannabinoids that exist within the cannabis plant. CBD has no psychoactive effect and does not get you high. It is THC that causes the infamous high that is universally associated with cannabis and marijuana.
CBD is being researched around the world and the initial evidence is extremely positive. CBD is known to help treat the symptoms of chronic pain such as inflammation, pain, anxiety, insomnia and depression.
CBD is not psychoactive, and this means it is an attractive solution for those who are looking for pain relief and mental health issues such as anxiety or depression.
CBD oil interacts with the endocannabinoid system and with cannabinoid receptors throughout the body. The endocannabinoid system is responsible for regulating various bodily functions so this is why CBD oil can help to combat stress, pain and may even help you lose weight as the endocannabinoid system regulates appetite.
CBD has started to be used as a food supplement throughout Europe and CBD has been federally legalised in the United States of America. As CBD is adopted by increasing numbers of people, its benefits are becoming common knowledge and the stigma that has surrounded cannabis and cannabis derived products for many years is beginning to cease. Whereas not too long ago, using anything associated with cannabis was viewed in a negative manner with people relating cannabis to crime and negative aspects of popular culture. It now seems to be becoming ingrained in people’s mind that cannabis and CBD can be a force for good.
What are the Health Benefits of CBD?
CBD has many supposed health benefits and there is substantial evidence derived from clinical studies as well as thousands if not millions of positive anecdotal stories. There is still a lot that remains unknown about CBD and the cannabis plant at large.
A clinical study carried out in 2018 concluded that there were positive preliminary results showing the effectiveness of CBD oil on pain relief, easing anxiety, epilepsy and mobility disorders.
There are also various other studies that have found that CBD does have anti-inflammatory properties as well as the capability to boost the immune system.
These findings cannot be dismissed but they are still just introductory research. Proper clinical trials will have to take place over an extended period of time with thousands of participants before the Irish government change their mind on both CBD and cannabis as a whole as a medicine that can be widely available to the public for pain relief or help with anxiety.
The Endocannabinoid System
One of the major discoveries that has been made in regard to CBD oil is that the human body has an endocannabinoid system which is an integral system that enables the body to stay well balanced and healthy. The endocannabinoid system has receptors that interact on a cellular level with phytocannabinoids, which are the cannabinoids that are found in cannabis, marijuana and other plants. The endocannabinoid system interacts with natural cannabinoids that are released in the body. The endocannabinoid system also interacts with external cannabinoids that are found in cannabis and other plants such as CBD and THC. Typically, the phytocannabinoids are used by the endocannabinoid system to stimulate bodily functions such as respiration, digestion and sleeping.
Grasping how the endocannabinoid operates has enabled scientists and researchers to obtain a better understanding about how CBD and THC interact with the endocannabinoid system and then what resulting changes to bodily functions there are.
What is THC?
The cannabis plant contains over one hundred cannabinoids. Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) or even more precisely delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol. THC is a psychoactive substance and is probably the cannabinoid that provides the effects that cannabis is most famous for. THC may cause symptoms associated with psychosis, THC is illegal and is under strict controls in Ireland under the Misuse of Drugs Act.
Is CBD Oil Legal in Ireland?
Under Irish law, CBD is not illegal and is not classified within the Misuse of Drugs Act. CBD is not currently classified or authorised as a medicinal product by the HPA in Ireland. This results in CBD not being considered as a treatment option and CBD products cannot be prescribed by doctors.
It is legal to purchase CBD in Ireland, but the product must have no THC whatsoever contained in the product. CBD can be purchased in health food shops and online, CBD is also available in certain Irish pharmacies. CBD is considered to be a food supplement in Ireland and is not classified as a medicine.
CBD oil is legally sold as a food supplement so long as it is derived from the hemp plant and has less than 0.2% THC.
The Irish Food Safety have issued an update on the status of CBD oil and their interpretation of the incoming European Novel Food legislation. As of March 31 2021, all ingestible CBD products will be classed as a Novel Food. The new regulations state that only CBD isolate can be used to formulate CBD ingestible products that will be available for consumption after the deadline.
A novel food or food ingredient is classed as such, if it was not widely available on the EU market prior to May 1997.
Why are some CBD oils considered to be Novel Foods?
Hemp oil that is obtained via cold pressing the seeds or other parts of the hemp plant do not require novel food authorisation. This is due to the fact that hemp oil was consumed in the EU to a significant degree prior to 1997. The entry for Cannabis Sativa L can be found here.
However, the CBD oil has been extracted using certain methods during extraction or purification, a novel food authorisation then may be required. This is because there may be an accompanying increase in undesirable constituents. Supercritical CO2 extraction is one example that will mean that if the CBD oil is extracted in this manner, the resulting products will need to be novel food compliant.
When CBD is purified or concentrated using certain techniques, unwanted substances that can be harmful to consumers may also be enriched. Extracts obtained using these techniques must be assessed for safety prior to be authorised to be sold in Ireland.
An Opportunity for Ireland?
As research continues around the world into cannabis and various cannabinoids, evidence is building to support the use of cannabis as a medicine as well as the efficacy of CBD in treating certain conditions. There is an opportunity for Ireland to embrace cannabis and open the country’s mind to using cannabis as a medicine and a supplement. There will be a tremendous amount of investment into countries that are early movers in the cannabis industry. Innovative legislation and daring policies could prove very fruitful.
How do you take CBD?
CBD oil is the most popular manner in which to consume CBD. CBD oils are typically sold with a pipette contained within the lid. You then place the pipette underneath your tongue and then drop the recommended number of drops under your tongue. CBD oil works sub lingually, meaning that the CBD is absorbed by the blood vessels under the tongue.
Oral CBD sprays are another fantastic delivery method. Also absorbed sub lingually, CBD sprays are typically a thinner oil and therefore are absorbed faster. Taste is a major factor when people decide whether to use a product over a longer period of time. CBD oil’s natural flavour can be very harsh and off putting to the user, especially if they intend on using CBD oil several times a day. This is why CBD sprays can be a great alternative as they are tastier and easier to consume than CBD oils.
CBD patches are an amazing way to take CBD. Typically, CBD patches use a transdermal delivery system which transfers the CBD from the CBD patch into the bloodstream across a concentration gradient. The CBD is released gradually and CBD patches normally last for at least 24 hours whereas CBD oil often loses its effect after a few hours. CBD patches are a convenient way to take CBD and do not have to be ingested. This is preferable for people with liver issues, dislike of the taste of CBD oil or for people who are uncomfortable ingesting a CBD product.
Additionally, CBD capsules are one of the most popular existing delivery methods in terms of CBD. This is largely due to the ease with which they can be incorporated into your daily routine. Furthermore, they are also useful in the sense that they are very slow release products. This means that you are able to enjoy the benefits of your CBD product throughout the day. On top of this, you are also able to avoid the occasionally unpleasant taste of tincture oils, that are taken sublingually.
Topical CBD skin care products are growing in popularity. CBD moisturiser can be a fantastic replenisher of skin and can be particularly helpful for those who suffer from chronic skin conditions such as eczema and psoriasis. CBD has anti-inflammation properties and conditions like eczema are caused by inflammation so that is why CBD can be effective in treating eczema.
CBD vape oils are also massively growing in demand. Consuming CBD through the lungs is a very efficient way to get CBD into your system. This is why smoking cannabis is so universally popular, as the effects are almost instant. However, there are many who have safety concerns about vapes and there have been several distasteful incidents in the United States of America that have left people injured. The long-term effects of vaping are also currently unknown.
How much CBD should you take?
There is much debate about how much CBD should be consumed on a daily basis. With some clinical studies dosing the participants with over of 500mg per day, there is a worry that this is not safe for the liver over a period of years. The UK’s judicial body the Food Standards Agency (FSA) suggests that 70mg of CBD should be the recommended daily dose. This is a dose that is deemed to be safe and also enable the user to experience a positive effect.
How much CBD you take should can also depend on your body shape, size and weight. If you are a large male, you will need to consume a greater amount of CBD to ensure it has the same impact as someone much smaller than you. It is wise to consider this if you are quite small, it could be worth starting on a lower dose to see how you get on before slowly increasing how much CBD you consume.
CBD is technically legal in Ireland but under specific circumstances. The Irish law remains blurred on some areas of cannabis and cannabis derivative products. There are contradictions between Irish and EU law which can cause confusion. However, the best attitude to take forward is that CBD will be legal but will have to be novel food compliant if it is an ingestible product.
It seems unescapable that cannabis products will grow in popularity and will eventually be accepted as a medicine by the medical community. So, it is probably worth educating people on the benefits of cannabis and on how to use cannabis derived products in a safe manner.
Finally, if you are interested on learning more about the laws around CBD in the United Kingdom specifically, please visit our comprehensive guide on the legality of CBD in the UK.