In a shock move, the Irish Government and Health ministry has decided to challenge the decision made by the European Court of Justice (ECJ) last year that legalised cannabidiol (CBD) in the single market. As one of the only E.U. member states to challenge the ground-breaking decision, it’s expected that this rank breaking will raise some eyebrows with policymakers in Brussels.
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ECJ legalises CBD across all member states
Last year, the E.U.'s highest court, the E.C.J., decided that hemp-derived CBD is definitively not a narcotic. Additionally, that it can be considered a food, and that it can also be freely traded among EU member states. Irish Minister for Health, Fianna Fáil’s Stephen Donnelly, revealed he is part of a regulatory group that questions the ruling.
The European Commission eventually reversed its former opinion that cannabis should be classified as a narcotic in EU nations after the ECJ's verdict in November. As a result, member state governments began revising their rules and regulations. CBD producers also began pursuing food safety applications to get their CBD products on the market under the new regulations.
Irish Minister for Health backs challenge to the ECJ ruling
The revelation that Minister Stephen Donelly was part of an Irish group seeking to overturn the ECJ ruling was not revealed until questions were put to him in Dáil Eireann that he was legally unable to answer. When asked a simple question about the ECJ ruling by T.D. Paul Murphy he responded:
“The matters addressed are currently under judicial review as the subject of a legal challenge in which the Minister for Health is a respondent, and we can therefore make no further comment.”
Donnelly refused to reveal the government's justification for the case and did not indicate how the health ministry would enforce market rules if the ECJ judgement was overturned.
Hemp Federation Ireland
The Irish government’s challenge to the ruling, according to Hemp Federation Ireland (HFI) Executive Director Chris Allen, demonstrates a complete unwillingness to understand both the ECJ ruling and the science supporting the benefits and safety of CBD.
Allen stated that the Irish Department of Health has verified that the ECJ judgement allows Irish hemp farmers and operators to use the entire plant to generate agricultural hemp products.
The health authorities also confirmed that meals made from EU-compliant crops, which contain just trace quantities of THC, pose no THC-related health risks. Most hemp-derived products aren't considered “novel food” by the department, which means they don't need to be approved for safety.
HFI Director blames pharmaceutical lobby for Ireland’s stance on hemp
In a hard-hitting interview with Health Europa, Allen had this to say:
“The worldwide pharmaceutical lobby spends almost €40 million in Europe every year, and EU pharmaceutical interests are mainly concentrated in Ireland. Recent research from Poland suggests a correlation between modifications to the EU Novel Food list and increasingly strict domestic enforcement tactics throughout the EU Member States, with Ireland's regulators being particularly harsh, according to the same research.”
The Food Safety Authority of Ireland (FSAI) Market Survey Report, published in February 2020, showed a striking U-turn in policy according to Allen.
“Before the report's release, the FSAI advised industry that products containing less than 0.2 per cent THC could be sold in Ireland, including food products. The FSAI now denies that this regulation ever existed, and all references to it were removed from the FSAI website just before the report's release.
The FSAI then took certain products off the market as part of a national public awareness campaign about the hazards of those products. The national broadcaster rejected the industry's request for a right of reply, citing the FSAI's status as a trusted, official source.”
James Joyce once described Ireland as a sow who eats her own farrow. Allen seems to agree that the successive right-wing governments of this small island are particularly susceptible to powerful lobbying of corporate interests over Ireland’s farmers and the sustainability of hemp as a crop. Perhaps when the Irish government's challenge reaches the ECJ, more concrete information concerning the Irish government and the FSAI's startling policy u-turn will come to light.
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