Skip Page Header

Home > Dail Eireann debate. Topical issue debate – Misuse of drugs [CBD].

[Oireachtas] Dail Eireann debate. Topical issue debate – Misuse of drugs [CBD]. (11 Jun 2019)


Deputy Gino Kenny: I thank the Leas-Cheann Comhairle for taking this Topical Issue matter today. I hope there can be some clarity on the confiscation of cannabidiol or CBD products around Ireland. Many people are confused about the legality of CBD products. Even I am confused on what is legal or not legal. 

In recent months some shops in the country have been raided, for the want of a better word, by the police and the Customs and Excise. They have confiscated CBD products such as CBD flower, CBD tea and CBD oil. This is a great inconvenience for the shop owners because they are not breaking any law.


This stems from the law and in particular, the Misuse of Drugs Act 1977. There is no exception whatsoever for tetrahydrocannabinol, THC, trace amounts. This is where we run into trouble. The shop owners are perfectly legitimate and law-abiding. They are selling products that are perfectly legal but obviously there is a situation whereby the interpretation by some arms of the State, in particular, the Customs and Excise and the police, contravenes that of other arms of the State, namely, the Health Products Regulatory Authority and the Food Safety Authority. The latter authorities maintain there can be trace amounts of THC in CBD products of up to 0.2%. That is the background. Some of these shop owners will possibly face criminal sanction and thus the stakes are serious indeed. If the police of this State interpreted the Misuse of Drugs Act 1977 by the letter of the law, then there are shops not far from here on Grafton Street that are selling CBD products with trace amounts of THC at 0.2%. If that is the case, then the manager should be questioned by the police. There is a major contradiction in this regard.


Many people use CBD products and find them beneficial for their well-being. This is putting them in a situation whether they do not know whether they are breaking the law. This is a mess and I hope the Minister of State at the Department of Health can bring some clarity. I have a document to hand from the Department of Health. I understand there are proposed amendments to the 1977 Act to provide for inclusion of trace amounts of THC up to 0.3%. That would give clarity because there is no clarity whatsoever around this issue at present. I hope the Minister of State can elaborate on that point.


The problem lies in laws that were written 42 years ago. They have not been updated to reflect what people are doing at the moment, including CBD shops and CBD derivatives. There has almost been a boom in production of these products during the past two and a half years.


I hope the Minister of State can give some clarity for the people who are listening. Many people are looking and listening to this segment in the Dáil tonight to see where they are going, as shop owners and people who use CBD. I hope they will not be criminalised.


Minister of State at the Department of Health (Deputy Jim Daly): I thank the Deputy for raising the issue in the House today. Revenue's Customs service has primary responsibility for the prevention, detection, interception and seizure of controlled drugs intended to be smuggled or illegally imported into the State. An Garda Síochána has primary responsibility for the investigation of any offences relating to the smuggling or illegal importation of controlled drugs and sole responsibility for drug law enforcement within Ireland. 

Tetrahydrocannabinol, which is commonly referred to as THC, is a derivative of cannabis, which is a controlled drug under the Misuse of Drugs Act 1977 and regulations and orders made thereunder. This legal framework gives effect in Ireland to the international conventions on narcotic and psychotropic substances and must be enforced by the relevant authorities.


Cannabidiol, which is commonly referred to as CBD, is not a controlled drug following extraction from the cannabis plant, as it is not psychoactive. However, if CBD products or preparations also contain THC in any quantity, then these are considered controlled drugs. The legislation currently in operation does not provide for any allowable trace element of THC.


I am informed that it is Revenue policy to treat CBD products that contain any trace elements of THC as controlled drugs under the Misuse of Drugs Acts 1977. Thus, they are liable to detention upon their importation and, ultimately, seizure pursuant to sections 33 and 34 of the Customs Act 2015.


Under current legislation, it is possible to apply for a licence for the growing of hemp from seed varieties specified by the European Commission. These seeds contain a maximum THC level of 0.2% and are deemed eligible for the purposes of Article 1 of EU Regulation No. 1307/2013. Revenue has advised that it has been involved in some seizures of CBD containing trace elements of THC in recent months, and relates seizures at the point of importation which can include seizures at ports or airports where the product is intercepted in a passenger's personal luggage; seizures at An Post mail centres where the product is intercepted in parcels addressed to either shops or private individuals; and controlled deliveries of product to shops or individuals in conjunction with An Garda Síochána following initial interception in a mail centre or otherwise. The Deputy will be aware that the Minister for Health, Deputy Harris, is in the process of establishing a medical cannabis access programme, MCAP, which aims to facilitate access to certain acceptable cannabis products, which have not been authorised as medicines by the Health Products Regulatory Authority, HPRA. The programme will permit cannabis products to be prescribed for three specific medical indications. It is envisaged that over a period, a variety of medical cannabis products - both THC and CBD with trace elements of THC and manufactured by multiple producers - will be available for use in the MCAP. Following consultation with relevant State authorities, the Minister may give consideration to the introduction of legislation to accommodate an acceptable trace level of THC in CBD products.


[For the full debate click here]

Repository Staff Only: item control page