Is CBD Oil Legal In Ireland

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As more and more businesses begin to sell CBD, the need for clarity surrounding the law has never been more necessary Pure CBD is not downright illegal in Ireland, but it is restricted. Understand the laws & how to buy legal top-notch CBD products in Ireland.

Irish CBD laws are hurting business owners

Cannabidiol, more commonly known as CBD or hemp, is becoming increasingly popular in its use as a treatment for arthritis, insomnia, anxiety, pain relief and inflammation.

However, it is currently placed in a precarious position within Irish law. Tethering in a legal grey area, the need for new legislation is now becoming ever more apparent.

CBD business in Ireland

Currently, cannabidiol is underpinned by the Misuse of Drugs Act. Under EU law, however, products containing under 0.2 per cent tetrahydrocannabinol (the psychoactive chemical found in cannabis), can be sold throughout the EU under European Regulation – resulting in a lack of legal clarity impacting businesses selling the product.

Little Collins, an Irish company that opened in 2018 by the husband-and-wife team, JP O’Brien and Ide Clancy, has felt the brunt of this lack of legal clarity surrounding CBD, experiencing its impact first-hand.

The company sells Hemp-derived products including Hemp flowers. Little Collins currently has a café in Kilkenny and Galway. JP told Buzz that “when Little Collins opened its first store in November 2018, we were given express permission from all the relevant authorities (Gardai, HSE/HPRA, FSAI, etc) that what we were doing was 100 per cent legal and no problems were raised.

“All our products are double-lab tested from independent testing centres and we would always ask for these lab reports to be produced before we buy any of the products/ingredients.”

Despite the extensive testing, due to the ambiguity in the law, he said, “our stores, home, and on two occasions in 2020 our customers’ homes have been raided by the national police force – An Garda Siochana. They have wiped our shelves clean and have questioned our staff at both our stores”.

Seizure

Little Collins said Gardaí seized the product under the Misuse of Drugs Act, 1977. The act regards all preparations of cannabis, irrespective of their chemical components, as illegal.

The legal issue arises from an EU regulation that permits the growing of hemp where tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) content does not exceed 0.2 per cent.

Although this regulation is in direct effect in Ireland, as EU law takes precedent, the Misuse of Drugs Act has no distinction in place to determine whether a concentration of less than 0.2 per cent of THC still constitutes a controlled substance.

“This would not have happened if Ireland’s cannabidiol regulations aligned with current policies put forth by the European Union. The unethical, aggressive, and duplicitous behaviour of the Irish government these last three years is galling to all those who witness it,” the business owner said.

JP jokingly added, “but as our solicitor says, you’d hardly be much of a criminal if you moved 17,000km across the world from Australia to start this business – then let everyone know via email and phone calls exactly what crime you were about to commit!”

Other businesses

While Little Collins sells CBD to its customers, other Irish businesses are more reluctant to, for fear of legal repercussions.

Richard Walsh, the owner of Tropic Lights, a Limerick-based company that sells CBD-derived products, such as balms and oils, told Buzz, “We sell some of the oils but we try not to dabble in any of the flowers or the concentrates because there might be a legal issue with THC content”.

“If I knew that there was no fear for the shop and for the customers then absolutely we would have no problem stocking these items,” he added.

“We have a lot of different types of people (who use our products). A lot of them would be athletes who use CBD balms for reducing inflammation or muscle pains,” Richard continued, discussing the people who use his products.

“People with sleep issues use it also. They find if they take it an hour or two before bed they get a solid night’s sleep from it,” he said.

CBD and the law

Niamh Kelly, a solicitor at Michael J Staines & Company said in an article that the laws surrounding CBD are “complicated and a legislative minefield in Ireland.”

CBD is covered by the Misuse of Drugs Act. Irish law, which states that any preparation of the plant is illegal, is in direct contrast to EU law, which states that CBD with under 0.2 per cent THC can be sold throughout the EU.

The Misuse of Drugs Act states, “‘Cannabis’ (except in cannabis resin’) means any plant of the genus cannabis or any part of any such plant (by whatever name designated) but includes neither cannabis resin nor any of the following products after separation from the rest of any such plant, namely –

(a) the mature stalk of any such plant
(b) fibre produced from such mature stalk, or
(c) seed of any such plant.’”

The act makes various substances controlled, such as cannabinol, except where contained in cannabis, cannabis resin and cannabinol derivatives.

However, the act does not contain any distinction on the limit of the amount of THC that must be present for a substance to be controlled.

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The confusion seems to arise as the Misuse of Drugs Acts, 1977 as amended is silent on whether amounts of less than 0.2 per cent constitute a controlled substance.

Food Safety Authority Of Ireland

Further confusion in the law presents itself in the disconnect between State Authorities and regulatory bodies. It is the position of the Revenue Commissioners that any substance containing any amount of THC is illegal to import. Due to this, any imports of CBD are treated as cannabis imports and as such subject to search and seizure under Section 34(1) of the Customs Act, 2015.

This in itself shows that CBD is considered wholly illegal in Ireland, however, The Food Safety Authority of Ireland (FSAI), allows for the sale of CBD oil if it is extracted by cold pressing, an uncommon method which leads to low-grade oils.

On the FSAI website, it is stated that “under license from the Department of Health and facilitated by the Health Products Regulatory Authority, certain varieties of hemp can be grown in Ireland.”

According to the FSAI, some CBD oils and balms are classified as novel foods. A novel food is a food or food ingredient that was not available on the EU market to a significant degree before 15 May 1997.

This means that, for example, if a licence is granted by the Health Products Regulatory Authority, for the sale of CBD containing less than 0.2 per cent THC, a business importing CBD from the EU would be liable to have the product seized by Revenue, where it is the stance that any amount of CBD is a controlled substance.

The Department of Revenue told Buzz, “When the results are positive for tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the products are detained and seized by Revenue under the Customs Act 2015.

“In relation to every seizure, the consignee has the right to make a valid claim seeking the return of the seized product.

“Where this happens, an investigation is carried out and a decision is reached.”

Bottom line

Increasingly, CBD is falling more and more into the mainstream with a growing number of people turning to the plant for pain relief, among other health benefits. However, the ambiguity in the law is hampering investment and deterring prospective businesses from developing.

As the demand for CBD as a health product continues to grow throughout Ireland, the need for legislative clarity surrounding the matter has never been greater.

Buying CBD in Ireland: Everything You need to Know [2022]

In Ireland, pure CBD is not a controlled substance as per the Misuse of Drugs Act — however, it does fall into a legal gray area thanks to the European Novel Food Regulation.

The Novel Food Regulation is guidance from the European Union that controls the placement of CBD products and other novel foods on the market. A novel food is defined as a food that doesn’t have a long history of consumption.

The regulation considers CBD a novel food because it doesn’t have a long history of use as a food in the region. However, Ireland interprets this rule a little differently.

Read this all-inclusive guide to understand the confusing and contradictory Irish CBD laws. We’ll cover how these laws work, and how and where you can buy legal CBD products if you live in Ireland.

Let’s get started.

Summary: Buying CBD in Ireland

  1. Order from local Irish CBD companies such as Dr. Hemp Me
  2. Cultivation of hemp varieties with less than 0.2% THC is legal in Ireland
  3. The Misuse of Drugs Act 1977 (MDA 1977) prohibits hemp derivatives that contain THC
  4. In Ireland, CBD extracted with solvents and CO2 are considered novel foods
  5. Pure CBD is not banned under the MDR 1977, but it’s restricted under the Novel Food Regulation
  6. To be entirely legal, CBD must be cold-pressed and 100% free from THC
  7. CBD isolate products remain stuck in the legal grey area, depending on their extraction method
  8. Medical CBD is not authorized in Ireland for the general public — medical access is granted on a case-by-case basis
  9. You can buy CBD in-store or online, but you’d be doing this at your own risk — customs may seize your product at the border
  10. You can use a mail forwarding service to order CBD from brands that don’t offer to ship directly to Ireland

Best CBD Oil in Ireland:

Dr. Hemp Me CBD Oil 30%

€0.05

Endoca CBD Oils

€0.08 – €0.09

Reakiro CBD Oil

€0.07 – €0.08

Hemp Bombs CBD Oil

$0.07 – $0.17

Nordic Oil Full-Spectrum CBD Oil (Europe)

€0.08 – €0.09

Kat’s Naturals Relax THC-Free Sublingual CBD Oil

$0.20 – $0.40

How to Buy CBD Products in Ireland

At the moment, the best place to get CBD products in Ireland is to order them online from Irish CBD companies (Dr. Hemp Me).

Most CBD brands will also ship to Ireland, but it’s best to go with European brands like Kiara Naturals, Endoca, or Nordic oil.

CBD is stuck in a legal grey area in Ireland — which means there’s always a risk of customs seizing your product even if it’s THC-free. However, the pressure from customs and police has mostly focused on local shops selling CBD products on store shelves.

There’s a silver lining in all this mess — the Irish government is considering complete cannabis legalization — which could bring friendlier CBD laws across the country. Once the regulations loosen you’ll be able to shop for various CBD products including the standard CO2 extracted isolates and full-spectrum hemp oils.

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Is CBD Legal in Ireland?

Ireland has contradictory CBD laws depending on how the CBD was obtained, and what format the CBD product is classified under. Ireland follows the EU ruling that allows hemp plants that contain 0.2% THC or less. Here’s the contradiction — this doesn’t apply to hemp-derived CBD products. No CBD products are allowed to contain any THC whatsoever.

Additionally, Ireland doesn’t allow any CBD products made from CO2 or solvent extraction — which is the best way to produce THC-free products.

Below we’ll cover a few pieces of Irish law that define these contradictory rules, and examine what types of CBD products are legal in Ireland.

CBD & the Novel Food Regulation

The first obstacle for CBD comes from the Misuse of Drugs Act 1977, which prohibits cannabis (including hemp) derivatives that contain any trace of THC.

At first, it sounds like CBD products are completely illegal, but this isn’t exactly the case.

Irish rules on CBD stand in line with the European Union’s Novel Food Regulation. This regulation classifies CBD as a novel food, which doesn’t have a significant history of consumption in Europe before May 15, 1997.

Besides the “history of consumption” rule, the Irish authorities included an additional standard for CBD products — the type of the extraction process.

According to Irish laws, CBD extracted with solvents or supercritical CO2 extraction requires a novel food permit from the European Commission (EC). Otherwise, it can’t be marketed as a food product or health supplement.

However, the Food Safety Authority of Ireland (FSAI) stated that if the CBD oil is extracted by cold pressing it is legal for sale.It should be noted that cold pressing hemp plants to make CBD products is not common, and usually produces a lower-grade product in the end.

How Irish Regulators Differentiate Between Hemp & Marijuana

Hemp and marijuana both belong to the species Cannabis sativa, but they are different in chemical makeup and their purpose of use.

One of the significant differences between hemp and marijuana is the tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) concentration. THC is one of the constituents of cannabis, known for its psychoactive effects. In marijuana, THC is present in large amounts and is therefore related to recreational cannabis.

1. Marijuana Laws in Ireland

Marijuana is a term used to describe cannabis with high THC levels — its THC content can go up to 30%. Under EU law, marijuana is any cannabis plant with more than 0.2%, and Ireland abides by this rule.

2. Hemp Laws in Ireland

Unlike marijuana, cannabis doesn’t contain significant amounts of THC and doesn’t induce the high associated with recreational use.

In Ireland, hemp cultivation is permitted if the hemp plant doesn’t exceed the 0.2% limit. Due to its rich CBD content, hemp is becoming the focal point in the cannabis industry where its used for textiles, food, and health supplementation.

What is Cold-Pressed CBD?

If you’ve read about the ways CBD extracts are made, you probably know that the most common extraction methods include solvents (ethanol, butane, propane, or alcohol) and CO2.

Cold pressing is a lesser-known extraction method when it comes to CBD. Typically, this process is used for hemp seed oil, pressed from the plant’s seeds (which don’t contain any cannabinoids). However, some companies have started using cold pressing methods to produce CBD to comply with Ireland’s regulations.

So, how does this work?

The raw hemp is processed through a cold press machine that uses a hydraulic press with extremely high pressure to squeeze out the juice from hemp that carries phytonutrients, oils, terpenes, and cannabinoids.

In order to prevent the massive amount of friction from overheating the hemp as it’s being pressed, the whole thing needs to be kept cold.

While this extraction method is efficient for companies that operate in countries with restrictive rules, it’s far from perfect.

The novel food rule jeopardizes the legal status of CBD isolate products. Although no law restricts CBD isolates, it becomes an illegal substance if it’s extracted with solvents or supercritical CO2. The only way to obtain pure CBD isolates (free from terpenes and other cannabinoids) is via CO2 extraction or with the use of solvents. Because of this, CBD isolate products are caught in the crossfire — thus living in a legal grey area.

Currently, there’s only one company in Ireland that produces cold-pressed CBD oil with less than 0.005% THC. These products are listed as being “full-spectrum”.

Currently, Green Light’s full-spectrum CBD is available through pharmacies in Ireland and the UK.

NOTE: Technically, Green Light complies with the law because it contains non-detectable amounts of THC. The company most likely achieved this by sourcing hemp plants that naturally produce less than 0.005% THC by weight.

Local stores in Ireland still sell CBD (mostly isolate products), and online stores operate even more freely — they sell both CBD isolates and full-spectrum CBD. A large portion of these products fall under the novel food rule, but their sale is not regularly enforced due to the complexity and contradiction in the laws governing their sale and use.

The police have raided a few Irish shops selling unregulated CBD products.

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NOTE: Avoid purchasing any THC-containing CBD products. If the customs notice your product, you could receive a penalty under the Customs Acts rules, and the Misuse of Drugs Act.

Tips on Buying High-Quality CBD in Ireland

The CBD market in Ireland is far from ideal. On the contrary — it’s chaotic, and you’ll often bump into illegal or low-quality products if you don’t shop cautiously.

Here’s how you can find high-quality CBD products online:

1. Do Thorough Research on Brands Before You Purchase CBD

It’s essential to buy from reputable brands because they’ve already built trust with their customers and are less likely to risk losing this reputation by compromising on the quality of their products.

2. Shop for CBD Isolates Over Full-Spectrum Hemp Extracts

Refrain from buying CBD that contains THC. CBD in its pure form is not illegal, and although it’s a subject to the novel food rule, it’s somewhat tolerated by Irish lawmakers. The only fully compliant CBD oils are those extracted by cold pressing.

3. Ask Your Seller for a Certificate of Analysis (CoA)

The CoA is a document that proves the CBD was tested for quality and safety by a third party. If a seller provides you with this certificate, he or she guarantees the product’s purity.

4. Avoid Companies That Exaggerate the Health Benefits of CBD

There is no authorized CBD for medical use in Ireland, but many sellers continue to label and advertise the products as a panacea. Remember, CBD has many benefits, but it’s not a cure-all.

How Mail Forwarding Works

Some companies won’t ship CBD to Ireland directly — so the only way to get these products delivered is to use a mail forwarding service. Mail forwarding companies provide you with a local address in another country which is then directed to your final address.

Here’s how mail forwarding works.

1. Sign up for an Account

Go to the mail forwarding company’s website to make an account. Upon registration, the company will give you a local address that you can use to shop online in foreign countries.

You should find a company that can provide you with an address in the region you want to shop in.

Shipito can provide you with a US address. If you want to shop in Europe, we recommend Skypax. There are other companies as well where you can register for a mail forwarding service.

2. Place Your CBD Order

When you receive the local address, you’ll be able to make online purchases. To shop from a specific company that doesn’t ship to your country, order the product you want and insert the local address as your shipping destination. Your package will first arrive at this address, and the staff from the mail forwarding company will change its stamps with new ones and forward the parcel to your home address.

You can also ask the company to place an order for you. This concierge service comes at a small fee, but it can be worth your money if you don’t want to spend your time shopping.

Skypax Rates:
Tier of Service Sign up Fee Annual Fee Average Shipping Fee
Standard Membership (If you only need the service every once in a while) £12 setup ($15 USD) None £30 ($36 USD)
Premium membership (If you order CBD regularly and want protection on your packages) £0 £90 ($110 USD) £30 ($36 USD)

A Brief History of Cannabis Laws in Ireland

Cannabis has been used in Ireland for well over ten centuries.

Hemp was mostly grown during British rule (12th – 20th century). In the 17th century, Queen Elizabeth made hemp cultivation obligatory to supply ropes and sails for the British navy, and farmers would produce the crop to supply British factories.

Hemp was also grown locally for domestic use and in the Irish textiles industry. British authorities banned Irish wool products, leading farmers to depend on hemp crops.

Throughout most of the 18th and 19th centuries, Ireland continued to grow hemp for the British Military. In the second half of the 19th century, Irish scholars emphasized hemp’s potential in advancing the country’s development. George Sigerson — an Irish scholar — wrote Cannabiculture in Ireland; its profit and possibility. He encouraged farmers and the state to cultivate hemp for the economic growth of Ireland.

During the same period, physician William O’Shaughnessy was researching the medical use of cannabis. While working in India, O’Shaughnessy treated a young girl suffering from convulsive seizures with hemp tincture. The parents of the child noticed an improvement in her health, and this case dubbed William O’Shaughnessy the father of modern-day cannabis therapeutics.

Ireland suffered a hemp shortage during the Irish War of Independence (1919 – 1921) forcing Ireland to import the crop from Russia. After the war in Ireland stabilized, universities progressed in hemp research, focusing primarily on hemp seed oil and its benefits.

Ireland re-introduced hemp cultivation in the 1990s when the European Union provided subsidies to hemp farmers.

Today, the cultivation of hemp varieties with less than 0.2% is permitted, while recreational cannabis (marijuana) is completely prohibited. Medical use, on the other hand, is granted on a case-by-case basis.

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