This year was a busy year for Irish cannabis. We saw some low moments and some incredible advancements in Irish drug policy. Here we recall the top 5 moments of 2022.
We finished 2022 on a good note. In December the Justice Committee released their report titled “ An Examination of the present Approach to Sanctions for Personal Possession of Certain Amounts of Drugs for Personal use” recommends decriminalising drug possession for personal use as an alternative to the current system of criminalisation. It is recommended that Ireland look at other jurisdictions such as Portugal, Malta and Switzerland “to see if the policies applied in these jurisdictions could be implemented in an Irish context”. Surprisingly, the committee also recommended examining the not-for-profit social club model and encouraging regulation. Finishing the year with a progressive and sensible proposal for drug policy in Ireland.
To start the year off in 2022, we learned conventions for cannabis plummeted with the introduction of the adult caution scheme. Figures showed between 2020 and 2021 the number of convictions for personal possession of cannabis halved from 11,127 in 2020 to 5,957 in 2021. This sharp decline is attributed to the expansion of the adult caution scheme to encompass cannabis for personal possession. Figures for 2022 are due to be released soon, and this trend is predicted to continue.
For the first time in over a decade, a bill was introduced that would reform our cannabis laws. The Bill will aim to decriminalise up to 7g of cannabis, and 2.5g of cannabis resin. Although the Bill does not address the cultivation of cannabis, decriminalising personal possession of cannabis is an important first step in reform. Speaking about the Bill Mr Kenny said “This is a moderate bill, and it hopes to start a discussion about cannabis and hopefully the government legislates it. In our party, we’d like to go much further than decriminalisation, our party supports regulation. We think this is a stepping stone towards full regulation of cannabis. I think it’s inevitable it will happen. Other countries are looking at different models rather than criminalising someone or bringing them to the justice system. There’s an alternative that is decriminalisation with legalisation.”
Alongside some of the positive reforms and advancements in Ireland we also saw, that advancement is not easy. For the past number of years, Irish CBD suppliers have been advocating and fighting for reform and regulation of an EU-legal product. In Ireland, if a CBD product contains any trace of THC it will be classified as illegal cannabis. There are many court cases in progress, but one was finalised and a ruling was given in November. This test case involved vials of hemp oil that were transported from Slovenia and intercepted in October 2021. They tested positive for THC, the psychoactive ingredient contained in cannabis. The Misuse of Drugs Act of 1977, according to Mr Bogusas' legal team, conflicts with European Law, which permits the production of hemp containing minute levels of THC. According to Mr Justice Owens' ruling, there was no direct evidence of the amount of THC present in the vials. The HSE testing of the oil only revealed the presence of THC, which, according to him, can be abused because CBD product users are not concerned about the maximum daily amount. It would be naïve to assume that potential customers, especially children, would not look for this, he said, in support of his assessment. Although this news came as a disappointment, there are many other cases in progress on the same issue, all due to be heard in the coming months. We remain hopeful that this issue can be settled and give much-needed clarity to the CBD industry in Ireland.
On the 14th of July, an open letter to all 705 members of the European Parliament encouraged other MEPs to join the informal group advocating for EU-wide discussion on cannabis. The group consists of Cyrus Ebgerer (Malta), Monica Semedo (Luxemburg), Mikuláš Peksa (Czech Republic), Dorian Roomaker (Netherlands) and Luke ”Ming” Flanagan ( Ireland). The group said “As members of the European Parliament, we feel that it is our duty to bring to light issues relating to the infringement of personal freedoms of EU citizens. We feel that as parliamentarians, we must be candid and not be afraid to touch upon topics that might be taboo for some, due to misconceptions and misinformation. One such topic is the personal use of cannabis,”. Luke “Ming” Flanagan MEP is no stranger to advocating for cannabis reform here in Ireland, in 2001, as part of his campaign of legalising cannabis he mailed a cannabis joint to every TD and Senator. In 2013 he proposed a bill that would allow home cultivation and personal use of cannabis in Ireland which was unsuccessful at the time.
There are so many more notable moments that I could include, I have chosen the ones that have made the most impact on the future of Irish cannabis. 2022 has been an amazing year for Irish cannabis, I have no doubt 2023 will prove to be another great year.