Irish authorities are facing a backlash over a regulatory “grey area”, following police raids on a family-run CBD shop.
The owners of a vegan CBD cafe, with premises in Galway and Kilkenny, say their business has been raided by Garda three times in the last two years.
On Thursday 4 February, officers are said to have entered the Kilkenny site of Little Collins CBD Dispensary, following complaints to a local radio station from residents about the “cafe which smells like cannabis”.
Staff at Little Collins, which sells CBD oil and hemp flower products as herbal remedies, teas, oils, ointments and butter, were advised that their products which contain less than 0.2 percent of THC is against the Misuse of Drugs Act 1977.
Business owner JP O’Brien says he has now been told he will be closed down if he continues to trade.
Mr O’Brien currently has a case for judicial review pending in the high court, following charges brought against him last year.
The Irish Times reported that in August 2020 Garda contacted Mr O’Brien informing him they were instructed to charge him with four offences under the 1977 Act.
The charges related to him being found in possession of “hemp trim” and CBD products.
However in December 2020, following the outcome of the high profile KanaVape case – in which theEuropean Court of Justice (CJEU) uled that CBD could not be classed as narcotic – Mr O’Brien launched a high court challenge arguing his prosecution, arising from selling certain hemp products is invalid under the Constitution and EU law.
Mr O’Brien, and his wife Ide, opened Little Collins in November 2018, after returning to her country from Australia.
He says he wrote to law enforcement in Galway in relation to the products before opening and was not advised of any concerns.
He sought additional reassurances from Garda before opening his Kilkenny store six months ago and was again assured that as long as the products did not contain more than 0.2 percent THC there would be no issue.
The couple say their Galway store and family home were first targeted in 2019, and in May 2020 searches are said to have been carried out at the homes of two of their customers.
The authorities have now faced a backlash from industry bodies and leading campaigners, who say CBD which contains any amount of THC is being treated as a narcotic in Ireland, despite the Misuse of Drugs Act 1977 being silent on whether concentrations of 0.2 percent are controlled substances.
Chris Allen, of Hemp Federation Ireland, told Cannabis Health that industry advice from Irish authorities that EU regulatory adjustments only relate to synthetic and isolated cannabidiol products was “incompatible with central EU administrative procedures”.
According the Allen, the EU Commission’s written advice, public statements, as well as administrative adjustments under EU food law and cosmetics regulations, following the KanaVape case, reflect the fact that the EU does not consider hemp as a drug and does not regulate it as a controlled substance under the UN Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs.
“Ireland’s views were sought and included in the process of reaching a unified EU position in advance of the UN vote on changes to the UN Single Convention in December. The EU voted not to include cannabidiol with 0.2 percent THC within the list of controlled substances,” she said.
“Ireland’s current position is profoundly incoherent, which is why the situation we find ourselves in does not exist in any other EU Member State.”
Ms Allen continued: “Little Collins CBD dispensary is a family run business. JP and Ide provide quality cannabidiol products to people in Galway and Kilkenny via their beautiful vegan coffee shops, all of which are double lab certified and their customers are at the centre of everything they do.
“The situation they now find themselves at the centre of now is really very distressing and completely unnecessary. It stems from a very poor understanding among regulators in Ireland about the hemp industry generally and especially cannabidiol and food products.”
A number of other CBD and hemp businesses in Ireland have had similar experiences to Mr O’Brien, many of which have now stopped trading due to fear of prosecution.
“Lots of Irish businesses in Ireland suffer similar treatment,” added Ms Allen.
“The Irish hemp industry is one of the oldest in the EU. Many Irish farms and businesses have been operating for more than 20 years and enjoyed uninterrupted trade in hemp products, including hemp foods, prior to 2018.
“The psychological impact of the actions of Irish authorities on people has increased as the sense of injustice people feel grows more acute.”
Mr O’Brien, who is being represented by high profile barrister, Micheál P. O Higgins SC says he has been advised by his legal team that an injunction would likely be unsuccessful due to the “grey area” in regulation.
But he told Cannabis Health he “will not give up” and is confident that the judicial review will be successful.
“The only real way that they can win is if they can prove that our product is a public health risk, which I’m afraid they are not going to be able to,” he said
“For the past few months there has been a massive groundswell of unrest about the cannabis situation in Ireland.
“It’s so unethical and outside the bounds of what we expect from a government who are meant to be looking after its citizens.”
Mr O’Brien continued: “At times we have felt extremely helpless and frustrated but we will never give up.
“We want to destigmatize cannabis and promote education and that is what our store is about. You never find bongs or grinders, it’s coffee, tea and sober people working in a normal environment bringing cannabis into the everyday.
“That’s what Little Collins has been about every day for the last two and a half years.”
He added: “We’re private people, we didn’t ask for any of this attention, we just need the government to acknowledge that we are not breaking the law.”
The Irish socialist political party People Before Profit, has now called for clarity on the guidelines around CBD products.
People Before Profit TD, Gino Kenny, who previously campaigned for medical cannabis legalisation, said in a statement: “There is currently a contradiction in how the present laws are interpreted. One state body, such as the Health Products Regulatory Association (HPRA) states that trace amounts of THC can be permissible in CBD products that are sold, while the customs authority goes by the Misuse of Drugs Act 1977 which holds THC in any amount as illegal. The misuse of drugs laws need to be amended so they synchronise with the regulations of CBD products as a food supplement.”
Carlew councillor Adrienne Wallace added: “CBD products are well known for providing medical relief to people with various ailments…The Justice Minister needs to weigh in and set the record straight.
“These are difficult enough times for people and small businesses and this is a waste of Garda resources.”
The Garda press office told Cannabis Health that An Garda Síochána does not comment on named entities or statements from third parties, but referred to the Misuse of Drugs Acts 1977 to 2016, which states: “CBD is not a controlled drug following extraction from the plant, as it is not psychoactive.
“However if CBD-containing products or preparations also contain THC, in any quantities, these are considered controlled drugs.
“Whilst there is currently no legal exemption under the Misuse of Drugs legislative framework for CBD-based products containing any amount of THC, it is envisaged that national legislation will be am
ended in the future to exempt CBD-based products containing trace amounts of THC at levels not greater than 0.3 percent from legal controls under the Misuse of Drugs Regulations.”
It added that all cases of drug seizures by An Garda Síochána are subject to analysis by Forensic Science Ireland.
The Department of Health refused to comment on Garda operations.
Ireland to fund patient’s medical cannabis up front
Campaigner Vera Twomey described “relief” that her determination has finally paid off.
Campaigner Vera Twomey has described her “relief” as the Irish Government agrees to fund medical cannabis patient’s prescriptions up front.
Eligible medical cannabis patients in Ireland will now have their medication paid for up front, after months of pressure on the Government from campaigners.
Health Minister Stephen Donnelly announced on Monday 19 July that the refund system for patients who obtain their prescribed cannabis-based products from the Netherlands, will now be replaced by a direct payment system.
The HSE will pay the dispensing pharmacy in the Netherlands directly, rather than the burden falling to the patients and their families, who were then required to apply for a refund.
Vera Twomey, whose daughter Ava Barry, 11, has a severe form of epilepsy known as Dravet syndrome, is among 40 patients who have now been granted an individual ministerial licence to import Bedrocan oil to Ireland.
But the family were paying 10,000 Euros up front every three months for Ava’s prescription and waiting up to five weeks for it to be refunded.
Twomey, who has four other children, has previously spoken of the huge financial strain this system placed on her family.
Over the last 16 months she has relentlessly called for action, making dozens of phone calls daily to politicians and lobbying ministers on social media with the backing of thousands of supporters in Ireland and across the world.
Twomey, who received a phone call from Ireland’s Prime Minister, Micheál Martin on Monday confirming the news, says she is “delighted” that her determination has finally paid off.
“There’s a sense of relief that we have accomplished this, but also a little bit of shock because we have been trying to resolve it for so long,” she told Cannabis Health.
Twomey’s activism gained national attention in 2017 when she walked from her home in Cork to Leinster House in Dublin to ask former Health Minister Simon Harris to grant access to medical cannabis for her daughter.
Initially having to travel to the Netherlands to collect the prescription herself, during the pandemic Twomey successfully campaigned to secure the permanent delivery of Bedrocan oils for Ava and other patients.
Now she says she is looking forward to focusing on her family and putting the phone down for a while.
“I don’t think anybody who has gone through this fight, seeing the injustice that we have had to deal with could ever walk away,” she said.
“But at the same time, I’ve made a lot of sacrifices and for the moment at least, I need to give 100 percent to my other children, to do normal things and be a family.”
But the fight in Ireland isn’t over.
The Irish Government announced the provision of funding for the Medical Cannabis Access Programme (MCAP) in January – almost two years after it was introduced – but only four low dose cannabis-based medicines are covered by the programme, for people living with one of three qualifying conditions.
“There are other issues – we still need expansion and improvement in medical cannabis access, the journey is over by any means, but we’re at the beginning and getting Bedrocan recognised as a medicine that is funded up front is very important.
“I think the Irish are actually miles ahead of the British on this one and I hope [politicians] will take notice and catch up.”
She added: “The greatest gift you’ll ever receive is to lose your fear, then you can accomplish anything with focus and determination.
“If you have the determination to keep going you will get there. It’s not going to be easy, they are not going to make it easy but it can be done.”
Patients eligible for the direct payment system are those suffering from one of three stated conditions; spasticity associated with multiple sclerosis, intractable nausea and vomiting associated with chemotherapy and severe, refractory (treatment-resistant) epilepsy.
The HSE says it will be contacting patients directly.
Health Minister, Mr Donnelly, commented: “I am delighted that the HSE and Transvaal Apotheek in the Netherlands are implementing a new process which will give peace of mind to the seventeen patients and their families who until now have been using the refund process.”
Kanabo’s cannabis vaporiser for metered dosing launches in UK
The VapePod will give thousands of UK patients access to pain relief in a metered dose.
Cannabis company Kanabo’s new extract formula and vaporiser will give thousands of UK patients access to pain relief in a metered dose.
UK patients will be the first in Europe to have access to Kanabo’s vaporiser, the VapePod, and its new extract formula when is it delivered later this month.
The deal, in conjunction with LYPHE Group, will see patient’s of LYPHE Group’s ecosystem, including The Medical Cannabis Clinic and Dispensary Green, able to access the VapePod under the brand name NOIDECS.
Under the agreement, PharmaCann and Kanabo established a customised production line for Kanabo’s VapePods cartridges.
An alternative to cannabis flower
The VapePod is a medical-grade, handheld vaporiser which enables accurate and precise micro doses of cannabis extract, dispensing 1mg of formula for each inhalation.
This will benefit to patients as inhaling extracts rather than tinctures and oils allows for faster onset and higher bioavailability.
It will also allow clinicians to more confidently prescribe and monitor a patient’s dosage, as well as providing more accurate patient data.
Previously, cannabis patients in the UK have only been able to access medical cannabis dry flower and oil tinctures for which the majority of patients consume via inhalation due to fast onset time.
Kanabo’s medical line aims to enable patients to move away from the harmful act of smoking medical cannabis flowers as they can now take their medicine without inhaling soot, tar and carcinogens into the lungs.
Avihu Tamir, Kanabo’s CEO, said: “The VapePod is a world first allowing specialist consultants to prescribe a metered dose of medicinal cannabis that is healthier for patients than the alternative, which is typically smoking.
“Medical cannabis is a safer alternative to the conventional opiate solutions and other pain management treatments. This announcement ensures that thousands of UK patients have access to the most effective medicinal cannabis delivery system.
“The fact that the VapePod gives exactly 1mg on every inhalation is crucial for GPs because they can prescribe an exact dose which they haven’t been able to do before. For patients who want the similarity to smoking but know they are not inhaling soot and tar. There’s also the bioavailability factor too.
“The reason GPs haven’t been prescribing is the issue of dosing and flowers – they don’t feel comfortable asking patients to smoke. With Kanabo, they can prescribe exact dosing in a safe and consistent way.”
The medical extract formula, which is based on the Israeli medical cannabis pharmacopoeia as a recommendation for the treatment of pain management, has a purity of 70 percent THC with 15 percent minor cannabinoids and terpenes.
Earlier this year Kanabo became the second cannabis company to list on the London Stock Exchange.
Dean Friday, LYPHE’s CEO commented: “Kanabo are experts in novel delivery with their VapePod greatly improving onset times, and for our chronic pain patients we now have an alternative to flower vaporisation. This is the start of a revolution in medical cannabis application and we are delighted to be supplying it under the NOIDECS brand.”
Cancer survivors turn to cannabis for physical and mental health – study
Cancer survivors are more likely to use cannabis to help pain, anxiety, sleep and nausea.
Cancer survivors are frequently using cannabis to manage physical and mental health symptoms, says a new study.
Research from the US indicates that cancer survivors are more likely to use cannabis for symptoms such as pain, anxiety, trouble sleeping and nausea.
A team of investigators analysed results from a Covid-19 cannabis health study to examine changes to cannabis use, methods of cannabis delivery, and coping strategies among cancer survivors since the pandemic.
They found that individuals with a history of cancer are more likely to report cannabis use to manage mental health and pain symptoms.
This group of people were also more likely to report fear of a Covid-19 diagnosis, compared to adults without a history of cancer.
Data was collected from 158 responses between 21 March 2020 and 23 March 2021, from cancer survivors who identified as medicinal cannabis users.
These were then compared to medicinal cannabis users without a history of cancer of the same age.
According to the study, cancer survivors were more likely to report using cannabis as a way of managing nausea/vomiting, headaches or migraines, seizures, sleep problems or as an appetite stimulant.
Sixty one percent of respondents with a history of cancer used cannabis to manage anxiety symptoms and 54 percent for chronic pain.
Forty eight percent said they used it to manage depressive symptoms and 25 percent for PTSD, while smaller numbers used it for symptoms of another autoimmune disease, and irritable bowel syndrome.
While there were no differences in how often they used cannabis or their method of administration, cancer survivors were “more likely to have an advanced supply of cannabis”.
The findings support the need for more conversations between doctors and their patients about the use of cannabis, say those behind the study.
The authors concluded: “Overall, we observed that cancer survivors are frequently reporting the use of cannabis to manage both physical and mental health symptoms associated with their cancer diagnosis and that cancer survivors are more likely to report fear of a Covid-19 diagnosis compared to those without a history of cancer.
“Given the frequency of mental and physical health symptoms reported among cancer survivors during the Covid-19 pandemic period, clinician–patient interactions should include questions around cannabis use, particularly those with a history of cancer.”
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