Is CBD oil legal in Ireland? Cannabis, hemp, CBD oil and Irish law

 

The popularity of CBD products for health reasons with Irish consumers is increasing all the time.  One common question we get asked, is CBD oil legal in Ireland?  Consumers are very confused. We are here to explain what is the legal status of CBD oil in Ireland and how to navigate around this confusing area.

woman questioning cbd legal in ireland

 

CBD vs. THC - where the confusion begins..


To start with, it’s important we discuss the difference between CBD and THC. 


CBD Oil, or Cannabidiol, is a natural component of Cannabis. It’s the most abundant non-psychoactive cannabinoid in the plant, and accounts for up to 40% of the plant’s extract. CBD has been adopted by the health and wellness world. 

THC, also known as tetrahydrocannabinol on the other hand is the psychoactive ingredient in marijuana that gets users high. THC causes the “high” that many people associate with the plant. 

CBD is legal.

THC greater than .3% is illegal in most countries. 


EU Regulation: So, Is CBD oil legal in Ireland?

Well the good news is that yes, put simply CBD oil is legal in Ireland if we follow EU regulation. 

As long as the CBD oil comes from the hemp plant and only contains trace amounts of THC (the illegal compound that gets you high).

Explain that again please?

OK here goes, let’s explain this really simply.

  • CBD can be derived from both hemp and marijuana plants
  • Hemp plants have high CBD and low THC 
  • Marijuana plants have low CBD and high THC
  • CBD is legal and will not get you high
  • THC is illegal and will get you high

So in summary, CBD is legal in the EU as long as it comes from hemp plants which are high in CBD and low in THC (less than .3%).  

 

hemp vs. marijuana

Cannabidiol and Hemp Irish Law - a legal grey area

Following EU law, CBD is legal in Ireland and cannabis or hemp may be grown under the EU conditions. 


However, there is another law, the Misuse Of Drugs Act, 1977 which outlines that any cannabis or hemp products containing any THC are illegal. This includes the trace (.3% in CBD) which is allowed in EU law.


This is where a lot of the confusion lies between these contradictory laws and explains why everyone is so confused.


Many high street retailers including big brands like Boots and Holland and Barrett follow EU law and sell some CBD with trace THC. 


However, some smaller CBD retailers like Little Collins often make the headlines for being raided by gardai for selling CBD flower and are 


The problem really lies with Irish Law to fix the contradictory laws. 


However, we know the plans are to change the existing legislation to legalise the sale of products containing less than 0.3% THC. 


Novel food law

Another important legal issue facing the CBD industry in Ireland is the novel food law.

As of April 1st, 2021, CBD products that are sold (using newer extraction methods like C02 extraction which most CBD products use) must apply for a novel food license

What is novel food?

A novel food means that  foods were not used for human consumption to any significant extent in the European Union before May 15, 1997.

This classification of CBD as a novel food is strongly against many hemp and CBD industry leaders who protest against this novel food law as hemp has been consumed for thousands of years.

What are the implications of the novel food laws?

What this means for Irish consumers now however is that many of the CBD products currently on the shelves will be removed if suppliers have not received a novel foods license. 

In one way this is a good thing for consumers as it means that manufacturers need to provide evidence to show that their product has been produced to a significant standard and that everything on the label is exactly as what is inside.

However, there is a downside to this for consumers also. Firstly, to obtain a novel foods license is extremely difficult and expensive which means that smaller CBD brands will likely be taken out of the market.

Another unfortunate consequence for consumers is that it is expected that many of the CBD companies will try to license broad and isolated CBD products (which are not as effective as full spectrum) as it will be easier to get a novel food license for products with zero THC.


CBD sold as medicine is illegal in Ireland

For CBD to be legal in Ireland, it cannot be sold as medicine. 

Medical claims can only be made for products which are licensed by the European Medicines Agency (EMA) or Health Products Regulatory Authority (HPRA).  

Authorisation for medical claims is a very costly and lengthy process and involves going through a few stages of clinical trials. 

This is why you won’t see claims such as “good for arthritis” “lowers stress” etc. on any CBD products or any related marketing material. If you do see claims like this, it is not allowed.


Medical Cannabis in Ireland 

The Health Products Regulatory Authority (HPRA), in conjunction with the Irish Medicines Board, has launched a special access programme for the use of cannabis-based products for the treatment of a small number of patients with certain conditions. This  facilitates the access to cannabis for medical purposes on compassionate grounds. 

How can you access medical cannabis?

A consultant can apply for a medical cannabis licence on behalf of a patient. 

The Irish Medicines Board (IMB) then issue a medical cannabis access programme card, which is presented to a pharmacist when a prescription for medical cannabis is presented

What conditions can you access the medical cannabis programme for?

The Medical Cannabis Access Programme is available to patients with the following medical conditions where the patient has failed to respond to all other treatments:

 

  • Spasticity associated with multiple sclerosis resistant to all standard therapies 
  • Intractable nausea and vomiting associated therapy with cancer chemotherapy, despite the use of standard anti-emetic regimens
  • Severe, refractory (treatment-resistant) epilepsy that has failed to respond to standard anticonvulsant medications. 


What are the licensed medicines available?

Authorised cannabis-based medicines are recommended to be used in the first instance. However, if an authorised medicine is not available or is not suitable for the patient, cannabis-based products may be considered as a treatment option.

The following are the main authorised cannabis-based medicines available for patients:

  • Sativex – moderate to severe cases of the muscle stiffness caused by Multiple Sclerosis. This is a mouth spray made from cannabis with a 1:1 ratio of THC to CBD. 
  • Nabilone – man-made drug made to be similar to cannabis. It is in capsule form and is taken to reduce the severity of the nausea and vomiting caused by chemotherapy.
  • Epidiolex - CBD isolate. Can only prescribe be prescribed for seizures associated with Lennox-Gastaut syndrome and Dravet syndrome.


Where can I buy legal CBD oil in Ireland?

Ireland has many retail stores and pharmacies which stock and sell CBD products. However, it is important to know the difference between buying CBD in a retail store in Ireland and on a specialty e-commerce site. 

Most retail stores will sell either isolated CBD products or broad-spectrum CBD products. These products are suitable for people who are either very sensitive to THC or are professionals who are worried about THC showing up in a drug test (although admittedly this is very unlikely). 

If this is not a concern for you, a full spectrum product is often a better choice.  You might think that extracting out and isolating the CBD compound from all the other compounds would make it a "purer better product" but in fact, the opposite is true.

CBD works synergistically with all the other compounds, flavonoids, cannabinoids and terpenes etc. We are marketed as customers that it is the CBD % that is most important but actually the other cannabinoids present and terpenoids are more important to understanding the best CBD product. This is called the entourage effect.

Buying CBD oil made from isolates is like buying a vitamin C capsule instead of an orange. 

Nature always triumphs.

Is CBD safe to take?

Yes, CBD is extremely safe to take. The World Health Organisation have stated the following about CBD:

CBD is generally well tolerated with a good safety profile 

 and they have also said

To date, there is no evidence of recreational use of CBD or any public health-related problems associated with the use of pure CBD.

CBD oil on prescription in Ireland

One question we always get asked from customers is if CBD can be prescribed by doctors. 

No, you cannot get CBD oil on prescription in Ireland

Although CBD oil is legal in Ireland, CBD is not licensed for medical use. 


CBD oil and driving in Ireland - is it legal?


It is legal to take CBD oil in Ireland and drive. However, we always encourage customers to make sure to buy a CBD oil that they are confident that is safe and they know what is inside.


You can read more about how to do this in our CBD oil and driving blog