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Is CBD Oil Legal in Ireland?
Table of contents :
CBD, THC, Hemp, and Marijuana
- What are the health potentials of CBD?
- Why CBD oil is not considered medicinal in Ireland
- What is the CBD oil legislation in Ireland?
- Legal restrictions on CBD extraction
- Medical Cannabis Access Programme
- Is it legal to grow hemp in Ireland?
- What is the future of the legality of CBD in Ireland?
In recent years CBD oil in Ireland has enjoyed the spotlight in the wellness arena for its many possible health benefits. It is safe to say that the buzz may never subside, not with the current trend of studies coming up with positive findings supporting the potential of CBD oil and products such as CBD gummies, but is Is CBD Oil Legal in Ireland?
In the USA alone, the CBD industry is estimated to reach $16 Billion by 2025 with projections for further growth. In Ireland, the CBD oil industry is also poised for tremendous growth. If you had assumed that CBD was just a passing fad, then the numbers show that you are wrong. And numbers don’t lie. The industry is big, and it keeps getting bigger.
In fact, the popularity of CBD oil has brought cannabis for medicinal purposes back to the table. It has forced open-minded conversations about the potential of a plant that is still considered illegal in most parts of the world.
The question of the legality of cannabis and its derivatives—which includes CBD oil—is something many governments around the world are struggling with. While they have to maintain regulations, they also have to consider what the public wants. Ireland is one of the countries that are still trying to navigate this grey area. But before we get into that, let’s take a look at what CBD is.
Is CBD, THC, Hemp, and Marijuana Legal in Ireland?
To get a clear picture of the legal requirements of cannabis-derived products, it is best to learn more about the derivatives of the plant. The truth is the regulations for one may not apply for the other. What is popularly known as CBD is short for Cannabidiol, one of the most well-known compounds of the cannabis plant. Apart from CBD, the other famous cannabinoid is THC (tetrahydrocannabinol). You may not know about CBD but odds are high that you know about THC.
THC is known for its psychoactive effect. What that means is that is the component of cannabis that makes people feel “high or stoned” when they use it. The intoxicating effect is why it is illegal in most parts of the world.
CBD, however, does not make you high. And most types of CBD oil do not contain THC, and when they do, it is in trace amounts of no more than 0.3%. This isn’t nearly enough to get you high.
Hemp and marijuana are different variants of the same plant, cannabis sativa. The biggest difference between the two strains is the concentration of THC and CBD. Marijuana usually has a high concentration of THC and a low concentration of CBD. Hemp on the other hand has a very high concentration of CBD and a low concentration of THC.
It is worth remembering that CBD oil can be sourced from both hemp and marijuana. However, since marijuana is illegal in many places, including Ireland, due to the high THC content, any product sourced from the plant (including CBD oil) becomes illegal by default.
What are the health potentials of CBD?
Before we look into whether CBD oil is legal in Ireland, we need to look at one of the reasons people use it, the potential health benefits.
There's a lot that is still unknown concerning what CBD oil can do in the health and wellness field. While researchers have made some significant strides, there is still a lot of work that needs to be done.
However, preliminary studies into CBD have come up with positive results that are still being built upon. One of the biggest discoveries was the discovery that the human body has an endocannabinoid system (ECS). The ECS is a vital system that helps to keep the body well-balanced and healthy. This system has receptors that interact on a cellular level with phytocannabinoids (cannabinoids found in plants).
The endocannabinoid system in the body is built to interact with cannabinoids that naturally occur in the body (yes, the human body produces its cannabinoids). On the other hand, it also interacts with external cannabinoids found in plants such as CBD. Generally, the ECS uses these phytocannabinoids to stimulate balanced bodily functions. Understanding how the ECS works has enabled scientists to have greater insight into how CBD oil might benefit the body.
When it comes to specific health benefits of CBD, there is hope in research. One clinical research from 2018 came up with positive preliminary results showing the effectiveness of CBD oil on pain and anxiety relief, cognitive problems, epilepsy, and mobility disorders.
Various studies have concluded that CBD does have anti-inflammatory properties as well as immune-boosting capabilities. Now, as much as these findings cannot be taken lightly, they are still introductory and may not have enough scientific backing to move a country into changing its legislations.
Now that we know what CBD can do, let’s look at CBD laws in Ireland.
Why CBD Oil is not considered medicinal in Ireland
EU lawmakers have created several categories for various products to make it easier to legislate on them. For this article, we need to look at two of these categories, food and food supplements, and medicinal products.
Items classified as foods and food supplements cannot be regarded as medicinal. This means that you cannot make any claim that these products can prevent, treat, or cure a disease. A product that has been proven to contain medicinal properties is strictly classified as a medicinal product. And for such products, you have to be very specific about the medical claims you make.
The EU categorizes CBD as a food supplement. Therefore, when advertising CBD oil in Europe you cannot make any claim related to it having medical benefits. You can read here about CBD and legality in Ireland.
The complications facing the CBD industry
At present, despite the huge demand for CBD products in Ireland, there is a lot of legal difficulties facing the industry. Some of these complications stem from a lack of working knowledge of hemp. Many people still paint hemp and marijuana with the same brush, and this doesn't do CBD oil any favours, as marijuana definitely comes with tons of restrictions.
Now, when the lawmakers themselves can’t seem to tell the two plants apart, it becomes difficult to pass legislation that favour CBD.
What is the CBD Oil law in Ireland?
The answer to whether CBD oil is legal in Ireland is not clear-cut. It can be a “yes” or a “no” depending on numerous factors. It will help to take a look at the cannabis framework in Ireland. Currently, cannabis and its derivatives are listed under the Misuse of Drugs Act of 1977 as controlled substances in the schedule 1 category. This means that these substances undergo a high level of scrutiny, and legalization may only be on a case by case basis.
Doctors in Ireland are not allowed to use or prescribe cannabis, and this includes medicinal marijuana. However, the Minister for Health may offer a license to enable a doctor, a practice, or a business to provide cannabis-based products to the public for medicinal purposes. The only reason cannabis is allowed on exceptional cases is that there are findings that support its potential as therapeutic in specific conditions.
While discussing controlled substances, it's important to note that CBD oil does not come under the "controlled substances" regulation. This is because it doesn't contain a large quantity of THC. Therefore, CBD is classed as a food supplement.
So, for CBD oil to be legal in Ireland, it cannot be produced and branded as “medicinal” or that they have any health benefits. The Health Products Regulatory Authority (HPRA) does not recognize cannabis and its derivatives as medicine. Therefore, any attempt to sell these products as such is illegal.
Also, for CBD oil to be legal in Ireland, it has to contain less than 0.2% THC. This is different from other parts of the world where the cut-off point is at 0.3%. Still, there is another roadblock when it comes to the Misuse of Drugs Act 1977, which strictly prohibits all cannabis derivatives containing any trace amount of THC.
As a safe bet, the only legal cannabidiol in Ireland is CBD oil with zero THC content.
Legal restrictions on CBD extraction
In the European Union, there is a policy known as Novel Food. Technically, the novel food requirement means that if an ingredient or food was not available in abundance in the EU market before 1997, then it requires special authorization from the European Commission before it can be legally sold and distributed in Ireland and the EU.
The novel food requirement is one of the biggest obstacles facing cannabidiol in Ireland and the EU. The modern CBD oil extraction methods, like the supercritical CO2 extraction and solvent-based techniques, fall under the novel food regulation. To use these methods of extraction, you’ll have to get authorization from the European Commission, which may or may not happen.
However, since the use of hemp and its products was significant in the EU before May 1997, it is not considered a novel food. And it does not require EU authorization. This loophole only works if CBD oil is extracted using a method recognized by the EU, in this case, cold pressing. The only problem is that cold pressing may not remove all traces of THC in CBD oil, which technically takes you back right where you started.
The modern extraction techniques that can guarantee zero THC content are not allowed by the European Commission. On the other hand, the recognized extraction method leaves you with trace amounts of THC, which the Irish regulations, specifically the Misuse of Drugs Act 1977, prohibits.
Why are particular extraction methods illegal?
The use of particular extraction methods such as C02 extraction to purify or produce CBD gummies and oil could also lead to enrichment of other substances that the EU Commission considers undesirable or possibly harmful to a person's health. Therefore, any products or extracts that have gone through the unauthorized techniques must undergo rigorous assessment for safety before they are authorized for use by the public.
Medical Cannabis Access Programme
Following a directive by the Minister for Health in 2017, the Health Products Regulatory Authority (HPRA) came up with a report that led to the inception of the Medical Cannabis Access Programme in Ireland.
In June 2019, the Minister for Health signed legislation to kick-start a five-year pilot phase of the program.
Basically, the program is meant to allow controlled access to cannabis-based products for medical use while keeping in line with the specific requirements of the legislation. A provider will have to apply to have their product considered for the Access Programme. If the cannabis-based product is accepted, medical providers will then be allowed to treat their patients using the product, considering other legal alternatives have failed.
The access program is likely the most significant stride Ireland has made towards leniency on cannabis-based products. It is hard to say, however, that the scheme will have any effect on CBD oil.
What can you expect?
At the moment, the access program serves as a stepping stone towards what could happen to cannabis and its derivatives. It is already a huge indication that public opinion carries weight, and as much as policymakers are trying to stand their ground, the tide may eventually turn towards public demand.
According to an article by the Irish Times, it won’t be surprising to see Ireland following in the footsteps of countries like Canada and the U.S in the near future. These countries have legalized cannabis either fully or partially as medicinal or recreational drugs, or both.
Is it legal to grow hemp in Ireland?
Considering growing marijuana is illegal in Ireland, you might be wondering whether the same goes for hemp. The good news is, it is legal to grow hemp in Ireland. You can also grow other strains of cannabis as food products subject to EU regulations. The regulation allows growing these plants, provided their THC content does not exceed 0.2%.
However, you still have to acquire licensing from the Department of Health. The different varieties of hemp that are legal to cultivate in Ireland and the rest of Europe can be found in the EU’s catalog detailing acceptable plant species.
What is the future of CBD in Ireland?
In a nutshell, you may say that the future of cannabidiol in Ireland looks bright even though it may appear grim at the moment. Not long ago, the U.S FDA body approved a CBD-based drug called Epidiolex for use in children suffering from severe forms of epileptic seizures. Such steps are bound to inspire changes in other parts of the world, including Ireland.
Studies are still ongoing on CBD's effectiveness and the more promising the results, the brighter the future of cannabidiol in Ireland.
Also, researchers are presently studying the entourage effect of CBD and other compounds found in cannabis such as Terpenes, CBG, and other cannabinoids. While CBD appears to have many possible benefits, the entourage effect of the full-spectrum cannabis extract makes it superior. Therefore, the future of both CBD oil and medicinal cannabis may depend on researchers proving that they are beneficial to humans.
So, is CBD oil legal in Ireland? Yes, but under exceptional circumstances. It's also true that there is a grey area on cannabis and its derivatives in the Irish law. This is a result of contradicting regulations from different authorized bodies. Throw in overall EU regulations, and it becomes confusing and difficult to navigate the legal CBD hoops.