Ireland could raise hundreds of millions of euro in much-needed tax revenues by legalising cannabis, according to a leading US entrepreneur in the business.
Jesse Stanley who, with his four brothers, has built a $30 million (€28 million) medical cannabis business in just a few years, claims the pharmaceutical industry has a "vested interest" in ensuring cannabis is not legalised.
Speaking on a visit to Dublin, Mr Stanley said the Government had created a black market and forsaken tax revenues by making cannabis illegal. “I’m pretty sure Ireland could use $200 million in revenues after experiencing its bailout. They owe it to future generations. Elderly people and moms with sick kids deserve a place to go, not a dark alley, to get safe access to medical cannabis.”
The Stanley brothers are based in Colorado, which has legalised cannabis for medical and recreational use. Their products containing CBD, a non-hallucinogenic component of cannabis, are used by a number of Irish families to treat children with epilepsy and other conditions.
A tall, casually dressed businessman from an evangelical background, Mr Stanley is at the cutting edge of a rapidly expanding industry in the US. Sales of CBD oil last year exceeded $550 million and the overall cannabis business is forecast to be a $20 billion industry within a few years.
He acknowledged “there was money to be made” but said his goal was to “educate people and let them know there’s a safe option” for medical treatment with cannabis.
A Government-commissioned report found little scientific evidence for the benefits of medicinal cannabis but Mr Stanley claimed this finding was “irresponsible”. CBD oil was not a “silver bullet”, he said, but it had been proven to help with conditions such as epilepsy, autism and arthritis.
His view is shared by medicinal cannabis campaigner Vera Twomey, who said her daughter Ava's severe epilepsy had improved greatly since taking the product.
Speaking at a press conference organised by People Before Profit, Ms Twomey said Ava badly needed access to products that contain THC. These are illegal in Ireland because THC, as the psychotropic component of cannabis, comes under the Misuse of Drugs Act.
Mr Stanley believes cannabis has been “demonised” because of a history of “prohibition, lies and mis-education” but that legalisation here is inevitable. He contrasted the drug’s treatment in law with that of alcohol: “Alcohol and cannabis: one of these kills how many people a year; the other, no one has ever overdosed on in the history of mankind.
“If Ireland doesn’t address [this] issue responsibly, people will go abroad to get what they want,” he says.