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CBD in Ireland: Everything you need to know

Using hemp-based products such as CBD for its medicinal benefits is no longer a taboo in Ireland, but there’s been widespread confusion about its legality following Garda raid on some CBD retail outlets earlier this year.

So what is the story? Why the confusion? What’s accepted or not? What do Ireland’s regulatory bodies say? Do you risk prosecution if found with CBD in Ireland?

The aim of this article is to educate on CBD as well as shed more light on what’s going on in Ireland and Its stance on CBD.

The Story behind CBD

Let’s start with the chemistry since most of the confusion stems from here.

Cannabinol (CBD) is one of over 80 compounds found in the cannabis plant. It’s different from the psychoactive component tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), and as such isn’t banned.

Now, here’s where the confusion starts.

Both CBD and THC are phytocannabinoids (plant-derived cannabinoids), but they differ in chemical structure and pharmacology. So they work differently in the body.

CBD and THC are phytocannabinoids just as Millet and rice are classified as cereal.

So far research has shown that CBD lacks the psychoactive potential that THC has, so it doesn’t produce the same euphoric effects THC does.

While it may seem like cannabidiol doesn’t have any psychoactive effects, that’s partly true.

CBD does have psychoactive effects on the brain, however, compared to THC, the effects of CBD on the brain are actually desirable: It can have an anxiolytic effect (anti-anxiety), induce sleep in insomnia patients and has anti-epileptic effects.

Think of CBD like a non-alcoholic beer. Where the euphoric effects from THC will alter your thought process – it can slow things down and make you slurry or speed things up. It might induce paranoia, or you might find humour in the wrong things. CBD just has a nice feeling of relaxation to it.

Though CBD seems to be taking centre stage in the health and wellness industries all over Europe and the US, in Ireland, however, the retail space and consumer base is fragmented: the experiences vary from person to person, there is an information gap on what the various products do, where the materials are sourced, the negative and positive effects, what’s legal or not, and an explanation to the Galway city crackdown on shops selling cannabis derivatives. 

One thing is clear, this is a product which can work. According to one of our Irish users, the product worked for her anxiety in ways other drugs couldn’t, but she had to push herself to challenge and face her anxiety during the nerve-easing window CBD gave her.

CBD Hemp Oils – Legal Status in Ireland

The legality of Cannabidiol (CBD) in Ireland is a confusing topic and a grey area for both sellers and consumers. CBD is not a psychoactive substance and, unlike other derivatives of the hemp plant such as THC, is mostly legal throughout Europe.

Here’s the interesting part. Not all forms of CBD oil are allowed to be sold as a food or food supplements in Ireland – and Europe as a whole. Something to do with the extraction method used:

If the CBD is extracted using the cold pressing method, then it can be sold in Ireland without issues with the authorities. But for other products that make use of solvents or supercritical CO2 extraction method, these products will need to apply for a novel food authorisation.

So what’s a novel food? A novel food is a food or food ingredient that was not sold on the EU market before May 15, 1997.

Because cold-pressed hemp oil was consumed in the EU pre-1997, hemp oil obtained by cold-pressing of the hemp plant does not require authorisation. A new novel food authorisation may be required if the hemp oil is subjected to certain forms of purification or extraction techniques as there may be an increase in residual contaminants.

Confusion over THC Levels

Aside from the confusion over with product qualifies as a novel food, there’s also different stance over the accepted THC level a product can contain.

In Europe, the legal THC limit for any product is 0.2 percent. But in Ireland, the authorities have opted for a zero tolerance approach to THC which has resulted in lots of Garda and customs bust:

In May 2019, drug squad detectives raided at least four outlets selling CBD products. CBD products worth about €10,000 were confiscated from a shop in Galway.

Prior to the Galway bust, a premise in Clonmel was raided in the month of April. And barely two weeks later another CBD outlet in Cork was raided and CBD product worth €44,000 (evaluated by gardaí) was seized.

The raid which started late last year in Waterford seems to be targeted at small CBD/hemp oil retail outlet, but from the looks of it, the main targets are shops that sell CBD products containing as little as 0.2 percent of THC.

So why the Crackdown on Shops selling CBD?

The EU’s stance on THC legal limit is 0.2 percent, whereas Ireland’s Department of Health considers any CBD products containing even trace amounts of THC as illegal drugs.

From Ireland’s stance on what amount of THC is legal and the novel food authorisation above, you can easily understand why it may seem like small retailers are targeted while the big ones are free to sell their products. Here’s a clue:

Most CBD products in the Irish market do not pass the novel food claim and to get that authorisation takes time – the application is sometimes rejected. So, what do they do?

Push their cheaply prepared product into the market before it gets the authorisation.

You can now see how not having authorisation to sell can get a product confiscated as well as traces of THC can also lead to the same.

Though, according to a spokeswoman, there are plans to legalise the sale of products containing less than 0.3 percent THC, to be on the safe side no-THC is the way to go in Ireland.

Is Using CBD/Hemp Oil in Ireland Worth the Trouble

Aside from the legality and authorisation to sell certain CBD/Hemp oil products, many Irish people still view CBD as the latest health fad.

Critics of CBD/Hemp oil believe the product, though natural, needs to undergo rigorous testing and standardisation like any other drug in order for it to be licensed for medicinal use – and the acclaimed health benefits it offers.

While there’s some truth that CBD has lots of people backing the product and making health claims for it, it is undeniable CBD has proven efficacy – in some areas. But more research is necessary, at the very least to make the market less hospitable to rogue outlets selling CBD product that may have escaped authorisation, and at the very best to allay sceptics and improve the quality of information available to the consumer.

From the handful of researches so far, scientists have deduced some health benefits of CBD/hemp oil. But, the verdict is that CBD should be taken with lots of ifs and caveat emptor:

if you understand what you’re taking and its side-effects,

if you talk to your physician,

if you acknowledge that the CBD in a retail outlet might not have been tested rigorously,

if you have enough information to source for a high-quality product,

if you don’t mind paying the high prices involved.



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