The Confusion In Ireland’s Justice System Is Concern for Europe’s Hemp And CBD Industry

After the Irish High Court made a CBD ruling in November 2020 that wasn’t based on science, HEMP Federation Ireland raised a concern with the EU Commission’s Health Executive, putting the Irish justice system in a bad spot.

In what has been termed a strange ruling of the KanaVape decision, the Irish Court determined that the EU ruling of November 2020 only applied to the CBD part of the KanaVape product rather than the product itself.

According to the court judgement that was issued on November 11, synthetic and isolated CBD products are categorised as EU foods; however, natural hemp extracts with any trace of THC are considered dangerous narcotics under ‘Irish, European, and international law’ and must be prescribed to the consumer by a medical expert.

The ruling further states that the provisions under Article 34 of the Treaty Forming the European Union are inapplicable in this instance.

Risk To Human Health!

The Irish Court depends on research by the World Health Organization on the health implications of taking trafficked drugs to conclude that products categorised as food by the European Food Safety Authority can cause scientifically proven risks to human health.

Nonetheless, the European Commission fails to regulate consumer goods in instances where they are narcotics. At the same time, EU law on food safety does not allow medicine products to be categorised as food.

The products considered food by the European Food Safety Authority directly benefit from the free trade protections under TFEU’s Article 34.

Before putting a measure like this into place, TFEU’s Article 34 says that the Member States must show credible scientific evidence of a real risk to human health.

Following extensive studies, the World Health Organization has consistently indicated that food products with traces of THC below 0.2% do not harm human health.

When the Irish health authorities failed to clarify essential matters of fact regarding the application of EU law and science, Hemp Federation Ireland sought an urgent and quick intervention from the European Commission. The Hemp Federation Ireland hoped that the move would safeguard the rights and health of the Irish population and consumers of European food and hemp products.

Hemp Federation Ireland’s Submission Was ‘Well-Received’

When responding to a follow-up email on January 8, the European Commission acknowledged that HFI’s request and submission were ‘well received.’

The ruling made by the Irish High Court is exceptionally different from the determination made by the French Council of State on December 29, which safeguarded the rights of French citizens by directing the correct application of Articles 34 and 36 of the T.F.E.U under the KanaVape ruling.

The EU Commission has already begun investigations into Ireland’s recurring inability to observe EU law and the Court of Justice ruling. This failure is evidenced by the post-KanaVape ruling by Ireland’s Minister for Health that classified the EU hemp crop as a form of a controlled drug, as provided for under Section 13(1) (a) of the Misuse of Drugs Act 1977 in Ireland. 

The objective of seeking this intervention is to enable Ireland’s Minister for Health to direct that the crop, all its derived products, and the whole agricultural hemp supply chain be subjected to the stringent licencing process provided for under Section 14 of the Irish Drugs Act.

The Minister opted for this approach to safeguard the life and health of the consumers. However, no scientific evidence was provided to justify this course of action.

In May last year, the Irish High Court gave an interlocutory judgement suspending the application of particular parts of Ireland’s 1977 Act. The aim of this judgement was to safeguard participants in Ireland’s hemp industry against suffering actual and irreparable damage.

While making that ruling, the judge upheld all the parts of the KanaVape ruling and reaffirmed the need for state defendants to produce scientific data as directed by Article 34 TFEU so that the hemp plant and its products could be legally considered drugs as per the Irish 1977 Misuse of Drugs Act.

The High Court ruling in November gave Ireland’s Health Ministry the mandate to exercise its powers to safeguard Irish hemp farmers from the unsafe parts of the crop.

Only the Irish parliament can formulate laws that criminalise an offence that was not initially in the Irish statutes. As a result, the High Court decision directly conflicts with the Irish Constitution.

Still, the Irish authorities are expected to begin criminal prosecution of Irish hemp industry operators and Irish citizens who buy consumer products that are pretty popular in the EU and sold in many shops all over Ireland and Europe.

The cloud of confusion currently hanging over the Irish justice system is expected to cause more inconsistency in decisions made in lower Irish courts during these criminal proceedings.

The Matters That Need Urgent Intervention And Clarification

Hemp Federation Ireland wishes that the European authorities will quickly adopt critical measures to guide and help the Irish authorities correctly interpret and apply EU law in Ireland.

Hemp Federation Ireland members have judicial review cases filed with the Irish High Court that are expected to be heard soon. Despite being delayed for quite a long time, these cases will provide the entire scope of Irish and EU law.

In an ideal world, the Irish government should wait until these cases are heard and concluded before charging EU food consumers in Irish courts.

As things currently stand, the November ruling made by the Irish High Court ought to be of great concern to the European Commission and all the industry operators in the EU.