Our round up of the recent headlines of interest from the Irish and European cannabis markets.
This decision from the UK’s Court of Appeal could have significant implications for similar cases currently before the Irish Courts. Despite the UK no longer being a member of the EU, this case was based on the same set of EU regulations that apply to Ireland, the UK’s Misuse of Drugs Act, which the corresponding Irish legislation is heavily based on, and the same argument regarding the legality of CBD flower. It will be interesting to see if the Irish Courts take the same view when deciding on similar cases.
“For the first time in its history the European Parliament held a debate on cannabis in a session called the ‘Legalisation of Personal Use of Cannabis: Exchange of Best Practices’.”
The European Commission has been the main blocker for EU States wishing to legalise and regulate their domestic cannabis markets. While its medical use is not, the recreational use of cannabis is prohibited under restrictions at a EU level. Hopefully ongoing discussions around cannabis policy reform will encourage the European Commission to change its stance on the matter.
“The Ministry of Health's draft bill is expected to be approved by the cabinet by August. Following that, the law would need to be passed by the Bundestag, the German federal parliament. Therefore, a decision on cannabis legalization could potentially be made this year.
Further details of how Germany’s new cannabis market will look have emerged as its draft bill is unveiled. Those hoping for a EU State to introduce a fully legalised and regulated cannabis market in the near future now rely on the Czech Republic, who will hopefully learn from Germany’s shortcomings, including how to approach the topic with the European Commission.
"CBD in its pure form is not a controlled drug, but if a CBD product contains THC or other controlled cannabinoids then it is likely that the product would be controlled."
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. To avoid this, by removing any THC, extraction techniques are required that will cause the oil to be a Novel Food and require the relevant authorisation, which is currently not possible to obtain.
When Luxembourg first announced its plans to legalise and regulate the recreational use of cannabis, it was met with optimism that it would pave the way for other EU States to follow. Ultimately, Luxembourg scaled back its plans for full legalisation, similar as seen more recently in Germany's case. While these scaled back plans were met with a level of disappointment by European cannabis stakeholders, it is a positive step that another EU State now allows for some level of personal cannabis consumption and cultivation.
Scottish politicians have the courage to decriminalise drugs, but Westminster is too timid to let them
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, out of sync with its European neighbours. What’s more disappointing is that further to its own domestic stance, the UK Government is set on enforcing this on other nations, where it has the influence to do so.
“Invoking the example of the 2001 decriminalisation as if Portugal were the world’s reference also makes no sense, when we know that every day people are arrested for having two, three or half a dozen plants at home. People who cultivate for their own consumption, so as not to have to resort to criminal networks, continue to be arrested, accused of drug trafficking and made defendants before a court that obliges them to issue an identity and residence document, with weekly presentations (at times daily) at a police station, and paying heavy fines?”
Portugal became a pioneer in European, and indeed global, drug policy reform when it decriminalised the use of all drugs in 2001, something that other EU States, including Ireland, are now catching up on. The legalisation of cannabis is a step further to decriminalisation, something that has yet to take centre stage in Portugal.
“Cannabis clubs’ worries about finance difficulties generated real questions about their ability to function effectively. Local banks perceived it as a high-risk sector, which made it difficult for potential cannabis clubs to establish bank accounts. The development of Malta’s legal cannabis industry was in danger of being slowed by these worries.”
The development of Malta’s decriminalised cannabis market provides insight of what other EU States can expect when rolling out their own regulated cannabis markets. Reliable access to financial services has been a consistent headache for cannabis and hemp related businesses. It’s a positive sign that in one of European pioneering cannabis markets these headaches seem set to fall away.
There are notable similarities with the path taken by the hemp market in the US and in Ireland. Since its peak in 2019, Ireland has seen a decrease in the number of hemp cultivation licences being issued and the number of acres sown, much like in the US. As with other emerging cannabis markets across the globe, Irish hemp farmers can learn from the successes and failures of their counterparts in America.
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