Cannabis in Ireland – Laws, Use, and History

Cannabis is illegal for recreational use in Ireland, nor can it be sold. However, despite the government’s relatively tough stance on prosecuting offenders, the country is surprisingly liberal regarding CBD and medical cannabis – both of which are legal. Ireland is also capitalising on the economic opportunities that industrial hemp offers.

    • Capital
    • Dublin
    • Population
    • 4,888,000
    • CBD Products
    • Legal
    • Recreational cannabis
    • Illegal
    • Medicinal cannabis
    • Illegal

Cannabis laws in Ireland

Can you possess and use cannabis in Ireland?

Possessing cannabis is illegal in Ireland, under the Misuse of Drugs Acts (1977-2016). Distinctions are made between possession for personal use and possession with intent to supply; and the punishments reflect this.

If you’re caught with cannabis for the first or second time, you may receive a fine of €1,000 in the District Courts. If the case leads to a conviction by indictment in the High Courts (for example, if the quantity of cannabis was deemed excessive), this fine can be extended to €1,270 for a first offence and €2,540 for a second.

Offend a third time (or more), and you may face a prison sentence. This is currently up to one year in prison for a summary conviction, and up to three years if you’re convicted on indictment.

The Criminal Justice (Community Service) Act 2011 means that courts must consider giving a community service order in place of a prison sentence, in all cases where up to a year’s imprisonment is deemed the right punishment.

Can you sell cannabis in Ireland?

Selling or supplying cannabis is also illegal in Ireland. Different penalties are imposed depending various factors, such as:

  • The offender’s circumstances
  • The type of drug
  • The quantity of the cannabis seized

Any sale of controlled drugs such as cannabis can be punished with a fine of up to €2,500. This may also be accompanied by a prison sentence of up to a year.

For larger quantities, penalties can be as severe as life imprisonment, and the minimum sentence for selling cannabis is currently 10 years if the market value is €13,000 or higher. In 2013, this sentencing regime was protested by the Law Reform Commission, based on its presumptive nature.

Can you grow cannabis in Ireland?

Despite the fact that cannabis seeds are openly available in the country, it’s illegal to grow your own cannabis plants in Ireland. Cannabis cultivation equipment is also prohibited (in line with the Psychoactive Substances Act).

However, this hasn’t stopped some Irish people from attempting to grow it, and figures suggest that incidences of homegrown cannabis are on the rise. One operation alone saw police raid 60 major cannabis-producing factories. They seized plants with a total street value exceeding €6million.

Is CBD legal in Ireland?

Irish authorities recognise that CBD (cannabidiol) does not produce psychoactive effects and cannot be used to ‘get high’. As such, the law permits its sale (as long as THC levels are below 0.2%), and it’s not uncommon to see CBD oil in health shops across the country.

Despite this, CBD is not currently listed as a medical product by the Health Products Regulatory Authority (HPRA). This means that doctors cannot currently prescribe it as a treatment option.

Some experts, such as Professor David Finn (NUI Galway) are concerned that CBD is not recognised as a medical treatment, and want to see its sale and supply more tightly regulated. “It’s very hard to know exactly what the composition of some of the products is,” he tells The Journal. “Some of them aren’t tested rigorously for quality control. So there can be batch to batch differences.”

He adds that: “some of these preparations are referred to as CBD oil or cannabis oil, which usually means it’s an oil extracted from the plant. But the cannabis plant is extremely complex, it has over 700 constituents in it, about 114 of these are cannabinoids.”

In 2018, the FDA in the USA approved Epidiolex as a medicine. It’s believed that Ireland may follow in the footsteps of the USA, and start to recognise CBD as a medical product, which in turn would lead to better regulation.

Can cannabis seeds be sent to Ireland?

It’s legal to purchase and sell cannabis seeds in Ireland. You can also legally receive them in the post from other countries. However, using them to grow cannabis plants is illegal.

Medicinal cannabis in Ireland

Cannabis was legalised for medical use in 2014. The license was limited to just one product, Sativex, and it could only be prescribed to MS patients. Ongoing disagreements regarding pricing and distribution mean that, at the time of writing, Ireland has yet to issue a single prescription for it.

The Department of Health issued a statement in 2018, claiming that officials had met with regulatory bodies and other stakeholders in cannabis production and supply, in Denmark. “The aim of these meetings,” it was claimed, “was to hear about the Danish cannabis access programme and enquire if a supply of medical cannabis products could be sourced.”

Health Minister Simon Harris told The Journal that the medical cannabis scheme was making “huge progress”, but acknowledged the challenges of obtaining a continuous, high-quality supply.

Industrial hemp in Ireland

Industrial hemp cultivation is legal in Ireland. In fact, it’s been grown in the country for centuries but was banned in the 20th century when public perceptions of cannabis began to turn negative.

In 1995, the Irish government recognised the economic value of industrial hemp. They also acknowledged its use as a source of sustainable oil and fibre. To cultivate hemp, the farmer must possess a valid licence from the Department of Health and Children, and the licence must be renewed each year. Plantations must also be located away from public roads, and all plants must contain 0.2% THC or less.

As yet, the industrial hemp industry hasn’t really taken off in Ireland – but there is potential for it to grow in the future.

Good to know

If you are travelling to Ireland (or currently live there), you may be interested to know the following:

Political parties and cannabis

Opinions on cannabis are split in Irish politics. Fine Gael (the largest political party, and traditionally right-of-centre) stated in 2013 that “it is not the intention of the government to legalise the use of cannabis either for medical or recreational reasons.” However, they were in favour of legalising Sativex. Labour (who are left-of-centre) surprisingly adopted the same position.

Fianna Fail (the third largest party) supports legalisation for medical purposes but not “for any other circumstances” and the Socialist and Green Parties both support legalisation of cannabis, even for recreational use. The Socialist Party added: “it should be made available through a State monopoly with accompanying safeguards for harm minimisation and education about the effects of use.”

Attitudes to cannabis

A 2016 study found that cannabis use was widespread among teenagers (15-18 year olds), with 39.3% of participants claiming they’d used it. It also found that most of these adolescents regarded cannabis as ‘low risk’ in terms of producing mental or physical health problems.

A further study explored the opinions of general practitioners working in the country. Although the majority were against legalising cannabis for recreational use, many agreed that it should be permitted for medical purposes.

Although there is still some hostility towards cannabis use in Ireland, it seems that attitudes are changing rapidly. Medical cannabis is regarded by several as beneficial, with few speaking out against it.

Ireland and the ‘green rush’

Niall Neligan, the founder of the drug policy law reform group, Fweed, put forward a proposal to revolutionise cannabis regulation – and inject €300million into the country’s economy by 2025.

The plans aim to eliminate the black market, protect children, and offer benefits to both public health and scientific research. It’s anticipated that the framework will create 15,000 jobs, and will also transform Ireland into a major European centre for cannabis over the next decade.

If adopted, pharmacies would be able to sell medical cannabis to certified patients, and licenced social clubs could be established for recreational users. Adults would be allowed to buy up to 60 grams per month (15 grams per week) and gift five grams or below. In addition, six plants could be cultivated at home for personal use (with only three flowering at any time). For medical patients, this would be increased to 12 (with six flowering at any time).

Neligan put forward a passionate argument to the government, stating that Ireland shouldn’t be held back by “relying on outdated policies born out of ignorance and social conservatism.” He also stated that, by taking control of cannabis, the criminal industry would lose its power. “No drug,” he claimed, “has ever been made safer in the hands of criminal gangs.”

Will cannabis be legalised in the future?

Neligan’s plans mark clear interest from the government in terms of exploring options; both for public safety and health, and for the economy of the country. Likewise, the recent steps taken to make medical cannabis more widely available is an indication that attitudes are changing.

Ireland may well follow in the footsteps of Canada and regulate both medical and recreational use of cannabis. Only time will tell if this happens or not.

  • Disclaimer:
    While every effort has been made to ensure the accuracy of this article, it is not intended to provide legal advice, as individual situations will differ and should be discussed with an expert and/or lawyer.

Comments

19 thoughts on “Cannabis in Ireland – Laws, Use, and History”

  1. Stefanie - Sensi Seeds

    As per July 2013, the price of Sativex in Germany has been reduced to 312,12€ for 3 bottles.

  2. I never knew cannabis oil was indeed wonderful and very effective in treating cancer’ if not for the government and their so called rules in regulating cannabis my Dad would have still been alive. thanks to the new policy for legalizing cannabis in my state i would have still lost my wife to kidney cancer, i was really touched and surprised when i watch lots of documentary on how cannabis oil had helped lot of people whom their family members never thought they could make it after undergoing several ”Chemo” from the dept of my heart i must say a word of appreciation to Dr Brown Nelson for the timely intervention in the life of my wife suffering from Kidney Cancer. as i am writing this testimony on this Blog my wife is so strong and healthy in spite he hasn’t completed the total Dosage’ for your cannabis and medical consultation try and get in touched with him if youare a cancer patient through his email: (brownnelson07@aol.com) so he can enlightened you more detailsa.

  3. morgan hope

    I am Mrs debra Hope i has been suffering from thyroid cancer which was confirmed to be stage four, the doctor told me there was little i could do since i wasn’t responding to treatment but my brother in law came to my rescue by ordering this hemp oil from Dr Morgan hope which he said has been helping some patient fight against cancer of various types so we decided to give it a chance, so far i am improving perfectly very well and presently i can walk around the house all by myself. I felt its necessary i let others who are suffering from this acute disease that once you have a good hemp oil it can really give one a sound second chance of living.

  4. James Leigh

    I am Mr James Leigh i has been suffering from thyroid cancer which was confirmed to be stage four,
    the doctor told me there was little i could do since i wasn’t responding to treatment but my brother in law came to my rescue
    by ordering this hemp oil from Dr weissert which he said has been helping some patient fight against cancer
    of various types so we decided to give it a chance, so far i am improving perfectly very well and presently i can walk around
    the house all by myself. I felt its necessary i let others who are suffering from this acute disease that once you have a good Cannabis oil it can really give one a sound second chance of living.

  5. Peter Nelson

    hi, Seshata, I love your articals, James o Riely is no longer in drug control, theres a new guy now that seems to be ok, they went to Portugal and thought it was good, some thing for you to up date. Thank you from Peter

  6. This was a good read. I have always wanted to know about our laws and looking online for information gets mind boggling and this was just lovely to read. What we need in Ireland is support and learn about all aspects of cannabis and be able to teach others in the future so it doesn’t get abused and everybody is aware of the pros and the cons. The only way to do that is for everyone to speak out and have more talks about it and really listen to each other.

    In school we were taught about alcohol and the bad side of it and yet we can’t turn a corner without seeing a pub. We all know the dangers of alcohol and we need more learning about cannabis and we should be allowed to have a say on the choices we make. Our government need to work together for a better country and help those in need. They seem to just focus on how bad it is and how it leads to harder drugs (which in my opinion is BS) its how that person feels when they use drugs and how they feel about their life. I can’t speak for everybody on drugs I’m just speaking from experience.

    Ireland are in process of opening injection centers i know its to help those who need it and keep people doing it on the street which is good. I just wish they helped the cannabis people out with a smoking cafe or even somewhere you can learn about it. Wishful thinking.

    1. Scarlet Palmer - Sensi Seeds

      Hi Amy,

      Thank you for your comment and your thoughtful feedback! I will make sure the author of this article sees it. I agree with all that you say, and hope that you continue to enjoy our blog.

      With best wishes,

      Scarlet

  7. Lorcan Kiernan

    I’m not sure of this professor’s name, think it may be Paul Kelly. He was an advisor to þhe government on drug affairs. He did a report on Mountjoy prisoners a 10 year period, I think!. Any way his conclusion was that cannabis was NOT a Gateway drug.

  8. The fines in the District court in my area are usually 200-300 euro for marijuana offences . You maybe looking at those selling or repeat offenders with such fines .

  9. Alex Cannabis Clinic

    Oklahoma approved the legalization of medical marijuana just last month, but if the nonprofit organization Green the Vote has their way, voters will have the opportunity this November to legalize the plant for all uses.

  10. Although great leaps ahead This is far from the perfect model and immediately contradicts itself.

    Cannabis will be treated like the dangerous drugs alcohol and tobacco yet consumers of both these toxic drugs are free to drink and brew alcohol or grow and smoke as much tobacco as they freely choose, whereas the cannabis consumer has strict rules about number of plants according to medical or recreational and number of grams per week!!!!

    Although the numbers are almost reasonable the restrictions themselves are unreasonable and already cannabis consumers are being treated differently to alcohol and tobacco consumers.

    Imagine only being permitted to buy a certain number of alcohol units per week?

    Or have a maximum limit of nicotine products permitted per person per week!

    This is exactly what they are proposing to do though.

    Which isn’t treating cannabis consumers the same as alcohol and tobacco consumers!

    What happens if a person consumes more than 15 grams in one week?

    Are they then prosecuted for exceeding their permitted weekly amount?

    Or if a person grows from clones instead of seeds then the low number of permitted plants is highly restrictive. Are these people then subject to prosecution?

    Anyone can buy 500 tobacco seeds for £4.99 with no VAT and plant all 500 without restriction except that the dried and cured product must not be sold and a duty paid based on the final dried weight.

    So why not treat cannabis the same as tobacco?

    That said this is leaps and bounds ahead of corrupt Westminster….I might return to my ancestral lands and flee this oppressive English government.

  11. Peter Nelson

    I would be happy if this went through, it would allow People to grow there own medicine and if they have a bit left over they can give a small amount to someone who needs this wonderful natural medicine, People for the People, just like in Uraguay, well done to the team for bringing this to the government, I applaud you, and thank you from the public.

    1. Marian Markey

      Should be leagazied… it’s a good supplement have been taking the oil for long time great relief for arthritis , and if you feel like having a couple plants great not like hard drugs that kill you ,….

  12. Can u have a word with the scottish government ireally hope this goes through a good way to open the doors glad the other uk governments are looking into it but not recreational shame its definatly moving onwards just not fast enough.

    1. Paul, this article refers to the Republic of Ireland, not Northern Ireland, so not in the UK. Who knows though, if the Scots did ever leave the United Kingdom and return to the EU, it would certainly be a very viable option to help boost the economy.

  13. Day Mee Yen

    This article should now be removed as the majority of the facts are no longer correct and the article on the whole is now just misleading.

    1. Scarlet Palmer - Sensi Seeds

      Hi Day,

      Thank you for your feedback. We are in the process of reviewing and updating our blog articles, especially the ones regarding legal and medical information, so we hope to have this one updated as soon as possible. I have passed your comment to the relevant person.

      With best wishes,

      Scarlet

  14. Vote the green party never heard of high and disorderly drink is the demon drug weed just relaxes people helps with stress anxiety pain list goes on

  15. Since my cancer treatment always tired could do with some energy. Legalizing it would be part of Healing Humanity which is a good thing.

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