IRISH hemp and CBD businesses are battling the police and state on a number of fronts in an effort to safeguard the emerging industry’s future.
On January 18, lawyers representing two of half a dozen CBD businesses with similar cases, will appear before the Irish High Court in an ongoing judicial review of the Government’s interpretation of the law.
In a separate action the Hemp Federation of Ireland (HFI) has issued notice of legal proceedings asking the Government – in particular the departments of Health, Agriculture and Justice – to ‘provide a coherent regulatory framework across the entire industry value chain which will allow the indigenous industry to function again’.
This month’s hearing will see two Irish businesses ask the High Court to deem the criminal drugs charges brought against them under 1977 Irish Misuse of Drugs Act as unconstitutional, an infringement on their property and livelihoods and a contravention of EU law.
CBD Is Not A Narcotic
One of these appellants is the Little Collins CBD Dispensary, which this time last year saw its Kilkenny café raided by police and warned their products contravene the Misuse of Drugs Act.
Little Collins operates from County Galway and was founded by husband and wife team JP O’Brien and Ide Clancy.
Speaking to BusinessCann Mr O’Brien said: “The aim of this action is to achieve clarity and harmony with the European Court of Justice. Its ruling in the KanaVape case was very clear on this in relation to products with less than 0.2% THC.
“CBD is legal. It is not a narcotic which means businesses like ourselves are able to import it into Ireland from another EU country – in our case mainly Italy – and market whole plant CBD and its extracts.”
At an earlier court hearing the Irish Government attempted to circumvent the KanaVape ruling, but the high Court Judge said that if it wished to pursue this path then it would need to provide scientific evidence that CBD is not safe at the January 18 hearing.
With the World Health Organisation, the European Commission, and the ECJ acknowledging the scientific safety of CBD this will be some task.
Speaking to BusinessCann, Chris Allen of the Hemp Federation of Ireland (HFI) said: “Ireland has a very long-established hemp industry with a full supply chain operating since the 1990’s – one of Europe’s oldest dedicated hemp retail outlets is also located in Dublin.“
“However, the interpretation of Irish Misuse of Drugs legislation, and the attitude of the state and police towards the industry, changed without notice in 2018 when a spate of drug raids and criminal prosecutions – which continue today – first began.
Kanavape Ruling Being Ignored
“This has had a detrimental impact on industry growth and we believe these enforcement practices are unconstitutional and unlawful.
“Hemp and CBD sit across a number of Irish state Departments – including Health, Agriculture, Finance and Justice – there is no evidence of a coherent approach between the various agencies – even within the Departments themselves the left hand doesn’t seem to know that a right hand even exists.”
“At an industry briefing in June 2021, the Food Safety Authority of Ireland confirmed that they have no safety concerns regarding the THC content in any product it is possible to make from the legal EU hemp crop.
“The Department of Health regulator also advised that there are no health concerns regarding the consumption of CBD flowers. In addition, they explained that EU regulations and the European Court of Justice ruling allow farmers to use all parts of the crop and that hemp with 0.2% THC can legally be imported into Ireland.
“Nevertheless, acting as agents for the Department of Health, Irish regulators continue to raid businesses and seize EU goods entering the state if they contain any amount of THC. Meanwhile, a second agency of the Department of Health, the Health Products Regulatory Authority, (HPRA) now requires farmers to destroy the leaves and flowers of the EU crop at harvest.”
She says the European Court of Justice decision in the KanaVape case – which permits he sale of CBD with less than 0.2% THC – is simply being ignored in Ireland with some authorities arguing that Irish domestic law, through the 1977 Misuse of Drugs Act, has primacy.
She added: “In effect, Ireland is forcing Irish hemp farmers and operators one by one into the High Court to defend themselves while leaving the Irish market open for others.
“The HFI action asks the State to immediately implement a coherent regulatory framework consistent with democratic principles and European law across the entire value chain. Our aim is to provide Irish operators with a legal mechanism to pull together to ensure the unlawful barriers to EU trade in Ireland are removed for once and for all.”
The reasons for Ireland’s post-2018, hard line stance on hemp and CBD is unclear, but as BusinessCann reported recently there is some concern the industry is set to be dominated by pharmaceutical firms and established North American cannabis players, freezing out domestic businesses.
The Irish crackdown has even seen police raids on the homes of Irish consumers who buy hemp products.
Many shops have been raided and dozens of Irish businesses and individuals are now being prosecuted for drug trafficking offences under actions brought by the Director of Public Prosecutions – the alleged offences carry prison sentences of up to 14 years and further High Court action is anticipated.
The club that the Irish have used to beat the CBD industry is the 1977 Act which pre-dates the discovery of non-narcotic CBD and views all cannabis as being the high-THC variety.
The Department Of Justice told BusinessCann this was a matter for the Department of Health which said it did not comment on matters which are ‘sub-judice’.