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High price Irish mum faces prosecution for selling CBD products containing 0.2 pc THC

Mum-of-two goes all the way to the High Court to fight Irish ban on THC after cops raid her shop and seize €1,500 worth of products

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Denise Lynch, owner of D. Hemp Shop in Cootehill, Co. Cavan.

Denise Lynch, owner of D. Hemp Shop in Cootehill, Co. Cavan.

Denise Lynch, owner of D. Hemp Shop in Cootehill, Co. Cavan.

MEET the mum-of-two waging a 'David vs Goliath' High Court battle against the State over the absolute ban on the sale of products containing minuscule amounts of THC.

Denise Lynch's business, D Hemp Shop, in Cootehill, Co Cavan was raided by gardai under the Misuse of Drugs Act on September 24 and €1,500 worth of products were seized.

She was also warned she now faces prosecution for selling products containing 0.2 pc THC - the psychoactive constituent in cannabis - under the same laws used to target cocaine and heroin dealers.

But instead of raising the white flag and closing down, Denise decided to fight back and is suing the Health Minister Stephen Donnelly, the Garda Commissioner, the Attorney General and the Government of Ireland - arguing Ireland's 1977 Misuse of Drugs Act contravenes EU regulations pertaining to the sale of THC.

Represented by Micheal O'Higgins SC, Denise will claim that EU regulations allow products with trace amounts of THC to be lawfully traded within the block.

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D. Hemp Shop in Cootehill, Co. Cavan.

D. Hemp Shop in Cootehill, Co. Cavan.

D. Hemp Shop in Cootehill, Co. Cavan.

Speaking with the Sunday World, former hairdresser Denise said she decided to open up D Hemp Shop in May as repeated lockdowns had devastated her trade of 18 years.

"I opened on May 4 this year and started trading," she said. "I had a little article in the local paper, the Anglo Celt, and it was great. It got people to realise what CBD is and the possible benefits of it.

"And it brought a lot of customers in here to me - not just people in their 30s and 40s but also older people in their 60s, 70s and 80s.

"There are benefits to CBD, and especially for people suffering from the likes of arthritis, MS, epilepsy, sore muscles, wear and tear and scar tissue."

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Denise Lynch, owner of D. Hemp Shop in Cootehill, Co. Cavan.

Denise Lynch, owner of D. Hemp Shop in Cootehill, Co. Cavan.

Denise Lynch, owner of D. Hemp Shop in Cootehill, Co. Cavan.

Denise said she herself started taking hemp powder five years ago after being diagnosed with Ankylosing spondylitis arthritis - an inflammatory disease that, over time, can cause some of the bones in the spine (vertebrae) to fuse.

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"I was taking the anti-inflammatories and all the usual things prescribed by the rheumatologist," she recalled.

"But after a couple of years, I really didn't feel they were helping me. Now that's not everyone's experience, but I didn't feel they were helping me.

"So I started taking CBD after I heard about a little company in Clones that grow their own hemp and produce it there.

"I went down and spoke with them and they gave me the hemp powder. And eventually it allowed me to come off my medication and I've been taking it ever since."

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Denise Lynch outside D. Hemp Shop in Cootehill, Co. Cavan.

Denise Lynch outside D. Hemp Shop in Cootehill, Co. Cavan.

Denise Lynch outside D. Hemp Shop in Cootehill, Co. Cavan.

Asked whether she had any concerns that the products she was selling in her newly-opened shop could put her at legal jeopardy, prior to the raids on her home and business, Denise said she did not.

"I had no idea the Gardaí thought I was doing anything wrong until they actually came in to raid the shop," she said.

"There was no advance notice.

"On the 24th of September they came in, a crew of them, at about 11.30 in the morning and they were here until 4.30pm. And it's not that big of a shop.

"The shop was packed with Gardaí and there were squads and unmarked [cars] outside on the street. Many of them stayed here and then a load more of them went out to my house and they raided the whole house.

"Thankfully, there was nobody there because I have two kids, but they were at school. They went in the back window because it was off the latch.

"Apparently they were looking for products at the house as well. They even took in ice cubes; hemp juice ice cubes I had in the freezer that I take in the morning."

Totalling up the products taken in the raids, Denise said they amounted to €1,500 worth of stock.

"It was a raid, it was 100pc a raid," she said.

"They walked in and slapped the warrant down on the counter and said we're raiding the premises under the Misuse of Drugs Act.

"They are claiming that some of the products I have here, not all of them, but that some of the products have 0.2pc THC.

"Within EU law that is the legal amount you are allowed to sell. But Ireland is the only country in the EU which seems to have a problem with those regulations and won't allow it.

"Since the raid, my takings are down almost 50pc.

"Because it's a small town, if you have the gardai coming in and raiding you, people are automatically going to think I must have been doing something wrong. It's not good for business."

Denise said she has been told her products have been sent for analysis.

"They said if any of it comes back with THC, then I am going to be prosecuted under the Misuse of Drugs Act," she said.

"Obviously there is 0.2 per cent THC in some of those products. It says it on it the boxes, so I know it's going to come back positive.

"After speaking with the guards, I thought to myself - well, enough is enough!

"I rang my solicitor and that's why the case is now going to the High Court. This is not just happening to me. This is happening all over Ireland.

"And I do believe people need to stand up to the Government over what they're doing and call out whoever is responsible for imposing laws to ban THC that contravene EU law.

"Whether it's Stephen Donnelly, or whoever who is behind the ban on THC, I want them to be called into court to account for it.

"There's nobody helping me with the costs," she said.

"But I'm determined to go ahead with this because in this country it always feels like the little person is the one who has to stand down."

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