The owner of a Cork business selling cannabis derivatives has been told he will be arrested on Tuesday following a raid on one of his stores earlier this year.
Jim Weathers, the owner of Puff N Stuff in Youghal Co Cork, sells Cannabidiol (CBD). Unlike other derivatives of the cannabis plant, CBD is not psychoactive and is mostly legal throughout Europe.
It is widely sold in Ireland, including by pharmacies and health food chains such as Holland and Barrett.
Earlier this year gardaí from the Cork Drugs Unit raided Mr Weathers shop and seized about 2kg of product, worth just over €2,000.
Several other CBD business were also raided around the same time including in Galway and Clonmel, as part of an apparent crackdown on the selling on the substance.
There is widespread confusion among sellers and consumers about the legality of CBD.
Much of the confusion stems from the various laws and regulations concerning such products in Ireland. Under EU regulations plants containing CBD may be grown as long at their THC content (the psychoactive component) is less than 0.2 per cent.
In Ireland, cannabis or hemp may be grown as a food product under the same conditions. However under the Misuse of Drugs Act 1977, all derivatives of cannabis and hemp containing THC are illegal, even if they contain only trace amounts.
The Department of Health said earlier this year it hopes to amend the legislation to explicitly permit CBD products like those seized.
On Monday Mr Weathers was contacted by gardaí who said they had a warrant for his arrest. He was asked to attend at Youghal Garda station voluntarily on Tuesday for arrest and interview.
If charged Mr Weathers faces the possibility of conviction for the sale or supply of drugs, an offence with carries a maximum sentence of life imprisonment.
The American businessman is currently applying for Irish citizenship along with his wife who is from the UK. Mr Weathers said he is concerned the arrest will scupper his chances of citizenship.
“I’m not feeling good to be honest. This is a debacle. I’ve spent five years trying to meet the requirement which I have finally done. This could be a major factor in that not happening.”
He said he has consulted a solicitor ahead of his arrest.
It “beggars belief”, he added, that gardaí are targeting small businesses for this while apparently leaving larger CBD sellers alone.
Mr Weathers said when he first started selling CBD products two years ago he invited Youghal gardaí into the store and explained it to them. He said he had no problems with gardaí until late 2018 when two drugs unit members arrived and asked to take away some of the produce for sampling.
The following May gardaí raided his store and seized the CBD products.
“All our stuff is tested as having less than 0.2 per cent [THC]and grown legally in Europe,” he said at the time.
Proponents of CBD say it helps with anxiety, inflammation, pain and a host of other ailments. Others criticise it as merely the latest health fad. It is also growing in popularity as a relaxant, although many who try it say, unlike regular cannabis, it has little noticeable effect.
Mr Weathers says it is popular among elderly women who use it to ease their arthritis.