Cannabis in Ireland

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Cannabis in Ireland is illegal for recreational purposes. Use for medical purposes requires case-by-case approval by the Minister for Health.[1] A bill to legalise medical uses of cannabis passed second reading in Dáil Éireann (lower house) in December 2016.[2]


In the Irish Free State, cannabis and cannabis resin were first prohibited by the Dangerous Drugs Act 1934,[3] which came into force on 1 April 1937.[4] The 1934 act replaced the Dangerous Drugs Act 1920 (a UK act passed before the Free State's creation) and fulfilled the state's obligations under the 1925 revision of the International Opium Convention, which had added Indian hemp to the list of controlled substances, and which was ratified by the Free State in 1931.[5][6]

Cannabis use increased from the late 1960s.[7] In 1968 the government set up a Working Party on Drug Abuse, whose 1971 report recommended keeping "the legal and medical status of cannabis" under review, and that possession of "a small amount of cannabis" for personal use should not be punished by imprisonment.[8] The recommendation to place cannabis in a separate legal category from other narcotics was included in the Misuse of Drugs Act 1977,[7] which replaced the 1934 act,[9] and remains in force.[10][11]


The gardaí (Irish police) have a level of discretion when dealing with recreational cannabis users. To procure a conviction any cannabis seized has to be sent for analysis to the Garda Forensic Science Laboratory. This, along with the time needed to process the arrest, means that individual gardaí may decide not to arrest for small amounts, but the drug will be seized and the name of the individual will be taken. Possession of cannabis is an arrestable offense and in 2003, 53 per cent of all drug seizures and 70 per cent of all drug-related prosecutions were for cannabis. Trafficking or possession with intent to supply are serious offenses under Irish law, punishable by fines of up to €2500 and/or a prison sentence up to a year in length.[12]

75% of drug cases before the criminal courts are for simple possession. This accounted for 11,486 of the convictions in 2016.[13]

On being brought to court, the penalties for possession are outlined as follows:[14]

  • First offence: On summary conviction, to a fine not exceeding €381, or on conviction on indictment, to a fine not exceeding €635.
  • Second offence: On summary conviction, to a fine not exceeding €508, or on conviction on indictment, to a fine not exceeding €1,269.
  • Third or subsequent offence: On summary conviction, to a fine not exceeding €1,269 or, at the discretion of the court, to imprisonment for a term not exceeding twelve months, or to both the fine and the imprisonment, or on conviction on indictment, to a fine of such amount as the court considers appropriate or, at the discretion of the court, to imprisonment for a term not exceeding three years, or to both the fine and the imprisonment. There is no law against possession or sale of cannabis seeds.

Medical use[edit]

The 1998 regulations under the Misuse of Drugs Act 1977 (as amended) listed cannabis, cannabis resin, cannabinol and its derivatives as schedule 1 drugs.[15] For such drugs, manufacture, production, preparation, sale, supply, distribution and possession is unlawful for any purpose, except under licence from the Minister for Health.[16] Licences were granted to GW Pharmaceuticals in 2002 and 2003 to allow medical trials of the cannabis extract nabiximols (Sativex) in a county Cork hospice and Waterford Regional Hospital.[17] In 2014, the 1998 regulations were amended to allow nabiximols to be prescribed by excepting it from schedule 1.[18][19][20] The first licence for medical use of cannabis oil was issued in December 2016 to allow Tristan Forde, a two-year-old boy with Dravet syndrome, to continue treatment begun in Colorado.[1][21] This was issued by the minister after an application by the boy's physician.[1]


A march in Dublin calling for the legalisation of cannabis in Ireland in May 2012

Luke 'Ming' Flanagan, a longstanding pro-cannabis campaigner, was elected to the 31st Dáil in the 2011 general election as an independent Teachta Dála for Roscommon–South Leitrim.[22] On 6 November 2013, he proposed a motion "That Dáil Éireann calls on the Government to introduce legislation to regulate the cultivation, sale and possession of cannabis and cannabis products in Ireland", which was defeated by 111 votes to 8.[23][24] On 20 November 2013, he introduced a private member's bill, the Cannabis Regulation Bill 2013, which never got a second reading.[25][26]

In November 2015, Aodhán Ó Ríordáin, the Minister of State responsible for the National Drugs Strategy, said he favoured decriminalising cannabis, cocaine and heroin for personal use.[27] Ó Ríordáin lost his seat at the 2016 election.

In December 2016, a private member's bill was introduced by Gino Kenny of People Before Profit to make cannabis available in Ireland for medicinal use.[28] It passed second stage without a vote.[2][29] The bill progressed to the amendments stage on 9 November 2017.[30]

One of the major organisations campaigning for the legalisation of cannabis in Ireland is NORML Ireland. 'NORML Ireland supports the removal of all penalties for the private possession of cannabis by adults, cultivation for personal use, and the casual nonprofit transfers of small amounts. NORML Ireland also supports the development of a legally controlled market for cannabis'.[31]

In June 2018, after a bill was passed to legalise cannabis in Canada, Taoiseach Leo Varadkar stated that the decriminalisation of cannabis was 'under consideration', with an expert group considering the examining the systems in jurisdictions in which cannabis has been decriminalised for recreational use.[32]

In a 2017 interview with Hot Press magazine, Fianna Fáil TD Stephen Donnelly spoke about smoking cannabis.[33] After being announced as a minister in the 2020 cabinet, Donnelly reportedly stood by his 2017 comments,[34][35] and noted an openness to the liberalisation of some drug laws, stating that if "you're doing something that's not harming anybody else, it's hard to see a legitimate role for the State in prosecuting you for it".[34] A 2020 news article described Donnelly as "broadly supportive" of supervised injection centres.[34]

In a 2020 interview, Green Party health spokesperson, Ossian Smyth said that he raised the proposition of legalising drugs during government negotiations, but added: “Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil said no.”[36]

In 2021, patients and advocates formed Patients for Safe Access, a non-profit organisation dedicated to improving the country's medical cannabis laws. The organisation's mission is to overcome barriers to the legal use of cannabis for clinical research and medical use by those suffering from chronic pain, HIV/AIDS, cancer, and other serious conditions. The organisation strives to reduce the stigma that justifies discrimination against medical cannabis patients. Patients for Safe Access will host its inaugural stakeholder conference in Autumn 2021. Participants in the conference will discuss and ratify a patient-led National Policy Agenda. The organisation will use strategies including legislation, education, litigation, research, grassroots activism, direct advocacy, and more.

External links[edit]


  1. ^ a b c "Cork toddler gets cannabis oil permit for epilepsy". RTÉ.ie. 23 December 2016. Retrieved 28 December 2016.
  2. ^ a b "Cannabis for Medicinal Use (Regulations) Bill 2016: Second Stage [Private Members]". Dáil debates. 1 December 2016. Retrieved 28 December 2016.
  3. ^ "Dangerous Drugs Act, 1934, Part II". Irish Statute Book. Retrieved 7 December 2016.
  4. ^ "S.I. No. 40/1937 - Dangerous Drugs Act, 1934 (Commencement) Order, 1937". Irish Statute Book. Retrieved 7 December 2016.
  5. ^ "In Committee on Finance. - Dangerous Drugs Bill, 1933—Second Stage". Dáil Éireann Debates. Oireachtas. 22 November 1933. Vol. 50 No. 3 p.37 cc.422–3. Retrieved 7 December 2016.
  6. ^ Ireland Treaty Series 1931 No. 6; League of Nations Treaty No. 1845 (No. 231 of 1928); "International Convention, Adopted by the Second Opium Conference (League of Nations), and Protocol relating thereto. Signed at Geneva, February 19, 1925". League of Nations Treaty Series: 317–358: 333. 1928. Retrieved 7 December 2016.
  7. ^ a b European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction (2013). Ireland (PDF). Drug Policy Profiles. Luxembourg: European Union. pp. 9–11. doi:10.2810/75991. ISBN 978-92-9168-566-0. Retrieved 7 December 2016.
  8. ^ Working Party on Drug Abuse (1971). Report (PDF). Official publications. Prl. 1774. Dublin: Stationery Office. p. 21, sec 3.4. Retrieved 7 December 2016.
  9. ^ "Misuse of Drugs Act, 1977, Section 41". Irish Statute Book. Retrieved 7 December 2016.
  10. ^ "Amendments, Commencement, SIs made under the Acts of 1977". Irish Statute Book. 13 October 2016. No.12. Retrieved 7 December 2016.
  11. ^ "Misuse of Drugs Act 1977 as amended". Revised Acts. Dublin: Law Reform Commission. 27 July 2016. Retrieved 28 December 2016.
  12. ^ "Cannabis in Ireland – The Law, Attitudes and Other Info". Sensi Seeds. Retrieved 15 December 2020.
  13. ^ Gallagher, Conor (2017). "Would decriminalisation solve Ireland's drugs problem or could it make the situation worse?: Campaigners are hoping Ireland may be about to turn a corner in its attitude to drug use. As ever, the issue is more nuanced". The Irish Times.
  14. ^ "Drug offences". Dublin: Citizens Information Board. 20 July 2016. Rules. Retrieved 28 December 2016.
  15. ^ "S.I. No. 69/1998 - Misuse of Drugs (Designation) Order, 1998". Irish Statute Book. Retrieved 28 December 2016.
  16. ^ "Misuse of Drugs Act, 1977". Irish Statute Book. sec 13–14. Retrieved 28 December 2016.
  17. ^ Donnellan, Eithne (28 January 2003). "Health trials set for cannabis extract". The Irish Times. Retrieved 28 December 2016.
  18. ^ "Minister White signs New Regulations to provide for cannabis-based medicinal products" (Press release). Department of Health. 11 July 2014. Retrieved 28 December 2016.
  19. ^ "Legislative Updates" (PDF). PSI Newsletter. Pharmaceutical Society of Ireland (6): 4–5. August 2014.
  20. ^ "S.I. No. 323/2014 - Misuse of Drugs (Amendment) Regulations 2014". Irish Statute Book. §5: Amendment of Schedule 1 to the Principal Regulations. Retrieved 28 December 2016.
  21. ^ English, Eoin (5 December 2016). "Tristan Forde and family reunited for Christmas after cannabis oil treatment". Irish Examiner. Retrieved 28 December 2016.
  22. ^ "Ireland 'ready for legalisation of cannabis'". Irish Times. 24 October 2013. Retrieved 30 October 2013.
  23. ^ "Legalisation of cannabis motion defeated in Dáil". RTÉ. 6 November 2013. Retrieved 7 December 2013.
  24. ^ "Cannabis Regulation: Motion (Resumed) [Private Members]". Dáil debates. 6 November 2013. Retrieved 28 December 2016.
  25. ^ "Cannabis Regulation Bill 2013: First Stage". Dáil debates. 20 November 2013. Retrieved 28 December 2016.
  26. ^ "Cannabis Regulation Bill 2013 [PMB]". Bills. Oireachtas. Retrieved 28 December 2016.
  27. ^ Ireland to 'decriminalise' small amounts of drugs, including heroin, cocaine and cannabis, for personal use, The Independent, 3 November 2015, retrieved 5 November 2015
  28. ^ "Cannabis for Medicinal Use Regulation Bill 2016 Bill 2016 [PMB]". Bills. Oireachtas. Retrieved 28 December 2016.
  29. ^ Duffy, Rónán. "Green light: The medicinal cannabis bill will be passed by the Dáil tomorrow". Retrieved 2 December 2016.
  30. ^ Medical cannabis legislation progresses to next stage, RTE, 9 November 2017, retrieved 7 November 2017
  31. ^ NORML Ireland - about. NORML Ireland. Retrieved 12 June 2017.
  32. ^ Decriminalisation of cannabis is 'under consideration' - Taoiseach., RTE, 22 June 2018, retrieved 24 June 2018
  33. ^ O'Toole, Jason. "The Hot Press Interview with Stephen Donnelly". Hotpress. Retrieved 6 February 2021.
  34. ^ a b c Pownall, Sylvia (5 July 2020). "Health Minister Stephen Donnelly stands by a 2017 interview where he admitted to smoking cannabis: The Fianna Fail TD told Hot Press magazine he had visited a strip club and tried marijuana – and was open to the idea of making it legal".
  35. ^ "Health Minister Donnelly stands by open minded attitude toward cannabis". 6 July 2020.
  36. ^ Beresford, Jack (19 June 2020). "Green Party proposal to legalise drugs blocked by Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael during government talks".