Cannabis Ruderalis

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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] [needs update]


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 community of anonymous cannabis users who reside in Ireland was created under the name Crainn in 2010 as a subreddit on the platform Reddit.[22] In September 2021 it set up a board of directors to "get organised and to help communicate to politicians what we want" and has expanded to other online platforms, such as having a server on Discord which was established in 2017.[22] The organisation has three core pillars: normalisation, education and community.[22] As of January 2022 it had 28,000 members in its subreddit, r/Crainn.[22] By February 2023, this had risen to over 36,000. The organisation has taken part in a number of demonstrations, debates and educational campaigns.[23]

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.[24] 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.[25][26] On 20 November 2013, he introduced a private member's bill, the Cannabis Regulation Bill 2013, which never got a second reading.[27][28]

In November 2015, Aodhán Ó Ríordáin, then Minister of State responsible for the National Drugs Strategy, said he favoured decriminalising cannabis for personal use,[29] and in 2017 called for the legalisation of cannabis to "cut the knees from under drug gangs".[30] Ó Ríordáin lost his Dáil seat at the 2016 election but was reelected in 2020.

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.[31] It passed second stage without a vote.[2][32] The bill progressed to the amendments stage on 9 November 2017.[33]

In a 2017 interview with Hot Press magazine, Fianna Fáil TD Stephen Donnelly spoke about smoking cannabis.[34] After being announced as a minister in the 2020 cabinet, Donnelly reportedly stood by his 2017 comments,[35][36] 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".[35] A 2020 news article described Donnelly as "broadly supportive" of supervised injection centres and open to making cannabis legal.[35]

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.[37]

The leader of Ireland's Labour Party, Ivana Bacik, has spoken in favour of legalising cannabis.[38]


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.”[39]

A poll carried out from 6 to 12 May 2021 by Red C on behalf of suggested that 39% of Irish people believe that cannabis should be legalised for both medicinal and recreational use. The number in favour of legalised medicinal and recreational use increased to 56% for those polled aged 18–34 and dropped to 21% for those aged over 55. In regards to the legalisation of medical use of cannabis, 93% of people surveyed were in favour. The polling is based on a survey of over 1,000 adults (aged 18+) taken across the Republic of Ireland and weighted to be an accurate profile of the population.[40]

Volunteering members from Crainn. Dublin 2022
Volunteering members of the Crainn community taking part in the first ever 'Cannabis Information Day', Dublin, April 2022

People Before Profit (PBP) supports the legalisation of cannabis for medical and general use. It states that it wants to "legislate for the use of medicinal cannabis for pain management of chronic conditions" and medical cannabis be "researched and made available as an evidence-based option for health care providers and patients". It also states that it wants the "non-commercialised legalisation of cannabis to be regulated by a new state body and dispensed via designated stores".[41] In November 2022, Gino Kenny introduced a bill to legalise personal usage of cannabis, and possession of up to seven grams of cannabis.[42]

In April 2022, cannabis activists took part in a number of campaigns across Dublin City. The organisation known as Crainn held a 'first-of-its-kind' information day in which campaigners wore hi-vis jackets and educated the public on cannabis.[43] Other activist groups such as the Major Group For Cannabis Reform (MGCR) held rallies and marches through the streets, supported by Gino Kenny TD.

Patients for Safe Access (PFSA) will host a national conference on medical cannabis at the Sugar Club in Dublin in June of 2022 with '[T]he goals of creating a patient-led national policy agenda and empowering grassroots advocacy'.[44] The conference will include panelists such as Alicia Maher, Martin O’Brien, members of Crainn, The Major Group for Cannabis Reform, The Cannabis Activist Alliance, Martin Condon and others.

In early December 2022, an Irish legislative body, made up of Irish politicians, known as the 'Joint Committee on Justice' published a report titled " An Examination of the present approach to sanctions for possession of certain amounts of drugs for personal use" that recommended that the government decriminalise drugs such as cannabis, and consider legalising them.[45] The report itself was influenced by advocacy groups and experts such as Patients for Safe Access, Crainn, Dr. Garret McGovern, Dr. Bobby Smyth and Dr. Nuno Capaz.[46]

In 2022 and 2023, Ireland was hit with a wave of synthetic cannabis hospitalisations.[47] In light of this, activist group Crainn spoke to the press and said that this was due to "the lack of regulation around cannabis" and that "it is only a matter of time before we see a synthetic cannabis related death in Ireland".[48]

In February 2023, Government Minister Hildegarde Naughton told the media that she had smoked cannabis in her 20s, and that it "wasn't for her".[49]

Citizens' Assembly on drug use[edit]

In February of 2023, the Irish government established a Citizens' Assembly to look at issues relating to drugs use in April of 2023.[50] A small cross-party group of 'like-minded' TDs and Senators had worked together to push the issue forward, these include: Holly Cairns (Social Democrats), Aodhan O'Riordain (Labour), Paul McAuliffe (Fianna Fáil), Neasa Hourigan (Green Party), Gino Kenny (People Before Profit), Lynn Ruane (Independent), Eileen Flynn (Independent). Sinn Féin are not members of this group. Some members of the group push for the decriminalisation and legalisation of cannabis.[51]


  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. Vol. 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. ^ a b c d O’Beirne, Eva (31 January 2022). "22 Questions for 2022: Life & Society". District Magazine. Retrieved 22 April 2022.
  23. ^ O’Beirne, Eva (20 April 2022). "Crainn is taking to the streets to educate Dublin on 4/20". District Magazine. Retrieved 22 April 2022.
  24. ^ "Ireland 'ready for legalisation of cannabis'". Irish Times. 24 October 2013. Retrieved 30 October 2013.
  25. ^ "Legalisation of cannabis motion defeated in Dáil". RTÉ. 6 November 2013. Retrieved 7 December 2013.
  26. ^ "Cannabis Regulation: Motion (Resumed) [Private Members]". Dáil debates. 6 November 2013. Retrieved 28 December 2016.
  27. ^ "Cannabis Regulation Bill 2013: First Stage". Dáil debates. 20 November 2013. Retrieved 28 December 2016.
  28. ^ "Cannabis Regulation Bill 2013 [PMB]". Bills. Oireachtas. Retrieved 28 December 2016.
  29. ^ "Ireland to 'decriminalise' small amounts of drugs, including heroin, cocaine and cannabis, for personal use", The Independent, 3 November 2015, retrieved 5 November 2015
  30. ^ Ó Cionnaith, Fiachra (22 April 2017). "Senator O'Riordain calls for legalisation of cannabis". Irish Examiner. Retrieved 18 February 2023.
  31. ^ "Cannabis for Medicinal Use Regulation Bill 2016 Bill 2016 [PMB]". Bills. Oireachtas. Retrieved 28 December 2016.
  32. ^ Duffy, Rónán. "Green light: The medicinal cannabis bill will be passed by the Dáil tomorrow". Retrieved 2 December 2016.
  33. ^ Medical cannabis legislation progresses to next stage, RTE, 9 November 2017, retrieved 7 November 2017
  34. ^ O'Toole, Jason. "The Hot Press Interview with Stephen Donnelly". Hotpress. Retrieved 6 February 2021.
  35. ^ 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".
  36. ^ "Health Minister Donnelly stands by open minded attitude toward cannabis". 6 July 2020.
  37. ^ Decriminalisation of cannabis is 'under consideration' - Taoiseach., RTE, 22 June 2018, retrieved 24 June 2018
  38. ^ Connolly, Johnny (2007). "Minister's contribution to Trinity cannabis debate". Drugnet Ireland. Issue 24, Winter 2007: 21. Archived from the original on 23 December 2021. Retrieved 25 March 2022.
  39. ^ Beresford, Jack (19 June 2020). "Green Party proposal to legalise drugs blocked by Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael during government talks".
  40. ^ "Almost 40% favour legalising cannabis for recreational use, over 90% in favour of medicinal use". 17 May 2021. Retrieved 22 April 2022.
  41. ^ "Drugs Policy". 6 January 2022. Retrieved 9 February 2022.
  42. ^ Barry, Aoife (12 November 2022). "Bill to be introduced that would legalise personal use of cannabis". Retrieved 27 November 2022.
  43. ^ Murray, Clara (14 April 2022). "Irish cannabis activists launch 'first of its kind' 4/20 campaign". Retrieved 21 April 2022.
  44. ^ "CONFERENCE". PFSA Ireland. Retrieved 2 May 2022.
  45. ^ Flannery, Maria (14 December 2022). "Committee recommends decriminalising, regulating drugs". {{cite journal}}: Cite journal requires |journal= (help)
  46. ^ Report on an Examination of the Present Approach to Sanctions for Possession of Certain Amounts of Drugs for Personal Use
  47. ^ McCarron, Jamie (28 February 2023). "More than a dozen people hospitalised from cannabis edibles in recent months". Retrieved 1 March 2023.
  48. ^ Ryan, Cathal (28 February 2023). "Tighter regulations called for after children hospitalised from weed-jellies". Retrieved 1 March 2023.
  49. ^ "Fine Gael Drugs Minister Hildegarde Naughton says she smoked cannabis in her 20s in Ireland". independent. Retrieved 24 February 2023.
  50. ^ "Government agrees to establish a Citizens' Assembly on Drugs Use". Retrieved 24 February 2023.
  51. ^ Cunningham, Paul (19 February 2023). "Assembly on drugs could make way for radical shake-up". {{cite journal}}: Cite journal requires |journal= (help)

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Archived websites[edit]

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