Our round up of the recent headlines of interest from the Irish and European cannabis markets.
Some are surprised to hear that cannabis remains illegal in the Netherlands. To date, the Dutch approach has been to decriminalise personal use, focusing on harm reduction and public health rather than criminal enforcement. As a result, while Dutch cannabis coffeeshops operate under specific regulations and are allowed to sell cannabis in limited quantities, large-scale cultivation and supply to these shops remains illegal.
Initially approved in 2019, the Netherlands has struggled to launch this pilot scheme as it faced delays and other practical issues.
“The Assembly thus far hasn’t heard an in-depth case in favour of cannabis regulation. As use of cannabis continues to increase, current policy remains the same - leaving more users at risk of contaminated products. Regulation, sometimes called legalisation, is now necessary in order to protect consumers and reduce the increase in synthetic cannabinoid hospitalisations here in Ireland.”
The Citizens' Assembly on Drug Use recently heard from cannabis policy reformist group, Crainn. There are hopes that, as a result of the Citizens’ Assembly, cannabis use and even small-scale cultivation, will no longer be criminal offences in Ireland.
Watch Crainn’s presentation to the Citizens’ Assembly here.
Ireland’s Medical Cannabis Access Programme (MCAP) has been criticised for, among other things, being too restrictive in the conditions that are permitted to be treated under it. A noteworthy omission being chronic pain, one of the conditions most widely treated using medical cannabis.
While certain conditions are excluded from the MCAP, access to cannabis as a treatment for all conditions remains available under licence granted by the Minister for Health. Patients in Ireland have had access to cannabis through the ministerial licence route since before the MCAP was introduced. However, due to restrictions and hurdles of gaining access, the number of Irish patients treated using cannabis remains remarkably low.
“Jersey Hemp director Craig Dempster said the company was told its product was banned because it contained THC.”
This is the same as the Irish Government’s position under Irish law. There is a paradox under Irish law and food regulation whereby CBD oil produced in a manner that does not require Novel Food authorisation, namely cold-pressed oil, will contain THC and will therefore be deemed illegal under the Misuse of Drugs Act, which does not provide for any permitted allowance of THC. To avoid this, by removing the THC, extraction techniques are required that will cause the oil to become a Novel Food and require the relevant authorisation, which is currently not possible to obtain.
“The change comes after a similar decree in 2020 was reversed days after it was issued, and a subsequent 2022 decree banning CBD that was eventually struck down by a regional court in Lazio, which ordered authorities to adjust Italian law to get in line with the EU.”
Italy has, at times, been an EU State setting potential precedents for other EU States to follow in liberalising their approach to CBD and ‘cannabis light’ products. However, this has become an ongoing case of one step forward, one step back.
“Minister Pierre-Yves Dermagne also added that he supports regulating cannabis production and sales and that such activity should be taxed. He did not provide granular details regarding what an industry model should look like, what the tax rate should be, or what regulations would be involved.”
Another EU State showing positive signs towards cannabis policy reform. It now seems more likely than ever that the EU is on the cusp of widespread cannabis reform as an increasing number of states voice their intention of doing so. Time will tell how many of these states will overcome obstacles, primarily those faced by the EU Commission, and fully legalise and regulate the industry.
“The numbers underscore that a significant amount of legal cannabis grown in certain countries is never sold for various reasons – such as poor quality, regulatory factors or insufficient demand – and is subsequently destroyed.”
Businesses that entered the legal cannabis industry, worldwide, have faced significant challenges. Battling an unfavourable regulatory environment on one hand and limited regulated market to supply on the other, businesses with a proven track record of success are yet to emerge. Denmark joins Canada in its impressive amount of legal cannabis destroyed since tit began the practice.
Having legalised cannabis for medical purposes, its pragmatic approach to Novel Foods Regulations and a growing number of domestic cannabis businesses, many saw the UK's potential to become a European cannabis powerhouse. Disappointingly, recent years have instead seen the UK Government double down on its tough on drugs stance. Time will tell if the UK Government will be more open to the idea of the UK becoming a hub for global cannabis financial trade.
The cannabis industry, from hemp, CBD, medical to recreational, has proven to be a hard nut to crack for most businesses that have entered the space. Headlines like these often only tell the story of success, while omitting the setbacks and obstacles faced along the way. In Trip’s case, the headlines continue to tell a story of its business going from strength to strength. Availing of the UK’s pragmatic approach to Novel Foods Regulations, Trip is making the best of the challenging regulatory environment it operates in.
Autoflowering cannabis varieties have revolutionised cultivation, particularly for individual, home growers. Unlike traditional photoperiod varieties, which require light cycle management to induce flowering, autoflowers transition from the vegetative to the flowering phase autonomously based on age. This eliminates the need for growers to adjust light schedules or use separate vegetative and flowering rooms. Furthermore, these varieties typically reach maturity in a shorter time frame.
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