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by Chane Leigh
On December 14th, 2020, Irish lawmaker Gino Kenny tweeted great news for the country of Ireland. “Next year, People Before Profit will bring forward legislation to end the prohibition of cannabis in Ireland. This will be the first time in eight years that a bill to legalize cannabis will be before the Dáil. Looking forward to the debate ahead in 2021”. If this is anything like his promises of the past, it will be exciting to see how things unfold this year regarding cannabis legalization in Ireland. While many politicians can talk the talk, there aren’t many that truly walk the walk when it comes to holding true to their commitments and promises regarding progressive cannabis reform. However, Gino Kenny has stuck to his word throughout the years and is arguably one of the most prominent voices for cannabis legalization in the country.
Next year People Before Profit will bring forward legislation to end the prohibition of cannabis in Ireland. This will be the first time in eight years that a bill to legalise cannabis will be before the Dáil. Looking forward to the debate ahead in 2021.
— Gino Kenny TD (@Ginosocialist) December 14, 2020
As an American, to see a lawmaker so diligently prepared to introduce legislation this year that would legalize cannabis in Ireland makes me wonder what the laws there currently look like. Many places around the world have reformed their laws pertaining to this plant in recent years. Let’s take a closer look at things in regards to cannabis and its legality in Ireland.
At this time, it is still illegal to possess cannabis in Ireland per the Misuse Of Drugs Act. This legislation offers up penalties for anyone possessing cannabis for personal use or those with intent to supply. If caught in possession of cannabis in Ireland, it could result in a hefty fine. After three offenses, you could potentially face up to three years of incarceration as well. The first offense of possession with the intent to distribute comes with a large fine as well as up to a year in prison.
In addition to possessing or selling cannabis in Ireland, it is also highly illegal to grow cannabis plants and/or possess the cultivation equipment necessary to do so. However, it is perfectly legal to buy, sell, gift, and possess cannabis seeds in the country. With all of this in mind, it would be safe to assume that all cannabis was illegal in Ireland; however, this is not the case.
Hemp as well as industrial hemp cultivation is legal in Ireland with the proper licensing. Hemp plants must contain less than 2% THC in order to be considered legal and able to be utilized in the manufacturing of products such as CBD oil. Speaking of CBD, like in the United States, CBD products that are made utilizing industrial hemp are legal as long as they contain less than the legal limit of THC. So does that mean that there is no access to THC for patients in the country? Not exactly.
In 2019 Ireland’s Health Minister Simon Harris signed legislation known as the Misuse of Drugs, Prescriptions, and Control of Supply of Cannabis for Medical Use Regulations 2019. This legislation outlines the requirements for certain patients to have access to the MCAP. The MCAP, also known as the Medical Cannabis Access Programme, is a five-year pilot program that will allow patients that meet a stringent requirement list to access and utilize cannabis. To qualify for the MCAP, a patient must have been diagnosed with one of the following and have also failed to respond to traditional medications and therapy for these conditions.
According to the government website regarding the Medical Cannabis Access Programme published in February of 2020 by the Department of Health, there are only three accepted specified controlled drugs that are cannabis-based that are suitable for use under the MCAP. These include High CBD oil drops from Aurora, a CannEpil from MGC Pharmaceuticals, and a Tilray oral solution. These three products are the only cannabis-based controlled drugs accessible by patients that do qualify for the MCAP trial program. None of the products being utilized by patients are manufactured within Ireland but rather manufactured in places such as Canada and then imported to the country.
Lawmaker Gino Kenny has stood by the sides of activists such as Vera Twomey, who advocates for legal access to cannabis for her daughter Ava who suffers from Dravet Syndrome epilepsy, a condition in which many children have found relief and a higher quality of life when given access to cannabinoid therapies. In addition to patients, the legalization of cannabis in the country could stand to drastically lower the numbers related to seizures by law enforcement officials in Ireland. In 2019 Irish law enforcement officials, formally known as Garda Síochána, reported that they seized more than 462,000 grams of cannabis flower the previous year, as well as 46,000 grams of hash and over 8,500 cannabis plants.
Hopefully, the push by Irish lawmakers this year to legalize cannabis will have highly beneficial effects on the lives of patients such as Ava across Ireland long-term. The last time that Ireland removed cannabis from its misuse of drugs Act, they only did so for one day back in 2015. This, of course, was the result of lawmakers introducing an accidental loophole within their drug laws before quickly enacting and passing emergency legislation to revert the changes. I hope that the next report I bring you on Ireland is to celebrate long-term comprehensive legislation that will benefit all patients who can live a higher quality of life thanks to this miraculous plant.
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