Our Herb In Their Hands


From top: The Health Services Product Authority (HPRA.) will look after cannabis policy in Ireland; Johnny Green

It’s 4.20.

Heeeere‘s Johnny.

Johnny Green writes:

This week (plus a day) is more than just a follow up to my soft promise  to take a better look at where your Government intends to plant the seeds for cannabis regulation, the Health Services Product Authority (HPRA).

While Government legislators seem determined to retain cannabis licencing within the walls of the Department of Health, what was once Part 2 of Gino Kenny’s Bill appears to have been mischievously co-opted by them for their own purposes.

Here is Minister Harris’ job description for the HPRA’s recent in-house promotion;

In exercising its function, the Authority shall seek to achieve the following 5 objectives—

(a) to regulate the supply and possession of cannabis and cannabis-based products for medicinal use,

(b) to pursue the development of a consumer-oriented licensing system and regulatory code for the users of cannabis and cannabis-based products for 10 medicinal purposes,

(c) to oversee the development of a professional, safe, and well-regulated service for the supply of cannabis for medicinal use,

(d) to have due regard to the needs of users of cannabis and cannabis-based products for medicinal purposes,

(e) to promote measures to facilitate increased understanding and awareness of the use of cannabis and cannabis-based products for medicinal purposes, and

(f) to facilitate the use of cannabis and cannabis-based products for medicinal purposes.

Nice work to win, nonetheless, even for a well-established Authority with a proven track record of delivering their mandate, this new legislation is a game-changer.

Yet it has been signed over to a one that is narrowly specialised, loss-making, and already known for sloppy strategic decisions with its resources.

This isn’t cynicism, I just have too many lingering doubts with an assignment that has all the trademarks of a done deal.

Rather than recognising that other jurisdictions have founded specialised agencies (see Blowback below), or that it was also included in Gino Kenny’s Bill, which by the way, was a Bill that they were still content with to pluck from, we really have to ascertain one thing.

What made the Irish Government think that the HPRA has the wherewithal to regulate a multibillion euro industry across a wide range of sectors from Healthcare, to Agriculture, to Tourism?

Since January 2017 this very same HPRA were already running ahead of themselves when they could barely walk straight with this statement;

“It is not the remit of this review to consider the recent Bill. However, it is noted that it is proposed to regulate cannabis outside of the existing medicines’ and Misuse of Drugs legislative systems. This proposal allows for greater access than recommended in the conclusions of this report and therefore is a matter of concern.”

Even a brief scan over the HPRA website yields some fault lines within their own house.

Last week I introduced you to their annual report, this week say hello to its Board.

Two particular appointments may be of interest; both were signed off by Minister Harris’ predecessor just as a General Election was called.

in his last days as a Minister for Health, Leo Varadkar appointed David Holohan, who at the time was Chief Investment Officer (CIO) at Merrion Capital and a Brian Jones.

The HRPA still lists this director’s day job as Merrion Capital, but Mr Holohan has since joined the Irish wing of former Italian premier Silvio Berlusconi’s controversial Mediolanum bank, MAML.

Mr Holohan is no doubt a huge asset to the HRPA board and above reproach in every way but this is about perception.

How can you expect the HPRA to be fully transparent if they cannot maintain the records of their directors for the public at large to oversee; how can you trust that their Fitness and Probity procedures are fully compliant?

Mr Holohan, meanwhile, also chairs the charity One in Four which is annually assisted by €800,000 from the HSE.

This is all too close.

Brian Jones, whose profile published by the HPRA states; he has worked at senior level in Public Heath, It is not enough information to advise if he is either independent or suitable. You should know if he is qualified, if is he experienced, if he has other directorships, and be certain he is demonstrably independent.

Exactly by what select criteria was he short-listed for Leo Varadkar’s final say?

Meanwhile, in other news, your EU partenaire are preparing to Roll Out themselves;

“Think tank le Conseil d’analyse économique (Council of Economic Analysis, CAE) published a 12-page report stating a controlled recreational market would allow the country to “take back control” from criminal gangs.”

Should you be wondering, Yes, the report does call for a National Independent Regulator to be created to oversee the production and distribution of Le Cannabis.

The Roll Up column by Johnny Green will attempt to keep Broadsheet readers up-to-date on the growing cannabis industry in Ireland and worldwide. Follow Johnny Green on twitter for even more updates.

Blowback: If you think I am being too critical of the Minister and the decision to retain what I am naming Irish Weed with a dicey boffin-heavy quango, here is a string of links from regions that have independent regulators for cannabis, so just see for yourselves:
Alaska, Colorado, Nevada, Oregon, Washington , Massachusetts and Canada

Johnny Green illustration by Alan O’Regan

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27 thoughts on “Our Herb In Their Hands

  1. eoin

    So, a group of people with incomplete bios but connections which mightn’t always give you a warm feeling of public duty have the power to decide on the fate of a billion euro (annually) industry, thanks to decisions of a FGer who had plenty of questionable commercial interests (wasn’t James Reilly in hot water over some loans?).

    As for Brian Jones, good luck Johnny, his Partnership of East London Co-operatives Limited bio states “Brian is an experienced board member, holding roles with a number of organisations. ” What organisations? Who can tell. There are literally hundreds of Brian Joneses in the UK who are directors. But you’d expect his LinkedIn profile to give the details. Nope.


          1. Johnny Green

            Doesn’t have the breeding or pedigree ‘for whom’ that’s a fairly white shoe board-so no:)
            ‘Lord Waldegrave served as a Conservative Member of the British Parliament from 1979 to 1997 including sixteen years as a Government Minister, of which seven years were as a Cabinet Minister (Minister of Agriculture, Chief Secretary of the Treasury, Secretary of State for Health, and Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster with responsibility for the Civil Service Reform and Science). Educated at Oxford University and Harvard (a Kennedy Scholar), before entering Parliament he worked in the Cabinet Office in Whitehall; as Political Secretary to Prime Minister Edward Heath; and for GEC Ltd. Lord Waldegrave is currently Provost of Eton College, Chancellor of Reading University and a Distinguished Fellow of All Souls College, Oxford and an Honorary Fellow of Corpus Christi College, Oxford. From 1998-2008 he worked at Deutsche Kleinwort Benson and UBS. From 1998–2015, he served as Chairman of Biotechnology Growth Trust plc. Lord Waldegrave was appointed Chairman of Coutts in January 2014 and is Chairman of the Royal Mint Advisory Committee, former Chairman of the Rhodes Trust, a Founder Trustee of the Mandela Rhodes Foundation (South Africa), and a former Chairman of the National Museum of Science and Industry‘

    1. Johnny Green

      Hi Eoin,hurry up and change those libel laws will ya so i can get stuck in:)
      I’m all for private business types/entrepreneurs sitting on these types of boards and contributing, for example Massachusetts has this chap as chair of its board…
      Its unacceptable that the HPRA can not keep and provide accurate information on the employment status of its board members,he moved over a year ago !

      “The Cannabis Advisory Board, established by Chapter 55 of the Acts of 2017 has twenty-five members: five appointees each from the Governor, Treasurer and Attorney General and ten ex offiicio members with expertise and knowledge relevant to the Board’s mission. They are charged with studying and making recommendations to the Cannabis Control Commission on the regulation and taxation of marijuana in Massachusetts.”

      Its Chair is…and he’s doing a great job.
      “Chairman Hoffman has extensive background in business and finance having served as a senior executive in the management consulting and technology industries.
      In consulting, he was a Partner at Bain and Company where he led the firm’s 600 person Boston office and, as a Senior Vice President at CSC Index, he ran that firm’s Chicago office and was the world-wide leader of its strategy practice.”

      link above.

      1. eoin

        Hi Johnny, Ireland’s libel laws aren’t going to change any time soon. They protect the elite and entitled, and the press and NUJ are just too weak to have their voices heard. Which political party wants libel reform? FG, FF, SF, Labour? None of them. When SF had the finance and personnel portfolio in Northern Ireland (June 2016-January 2017), and when their minister was a newspaper man who you’d expect would want to see reform for his own papers if nothing else, did he lift a finger to change the North’s draconian libel? He did not. All the Establishment parties are on the same page.

        I’ll look at Brian Jones for you in the UK for next week, though at present, there’s nothing to suggest he’s anything other than a reputable academic and associated with well-regarded UK public sector organisations.

    2. Rob

      It would be bizarre if any entity other than the HPRA were in charge of this.

      They are the regulatory authority for medicines, as the name suggests.

      1. (one last chance to change my) user name (and then that's it)

        It’s more than medicines for example food, plastic

  2. millie st murderlark

    Great articles Johnny. Really informative. Looking forward to sitting down to read this one after dinner

    1. Johnny Green

      Thanks Millie,have a lovely dinner and it was ahem ‘edited’ but still fair play to Bodger and the ‘sheet team for even going here.

  3. Cian

    Johnny. You said this will be a milti billion annually.
    One of the US states (Nevada? Can’t remember which one) has a similar population and a billion dollar turnover.

    But. The US state is both medicinal and recreational. The gov is currently only talking about medicinal (for the HPRA) – which is about $200m (from memory).

    1. Johnny Green

      Hi Cian,Coloardo was utilized prior as an example of the potential size the Irish med/rec market,Nevada is still rolling out its rec program.I confidently state that its easily a 1 Billion market domestically, with some vision it could have been a brand new multi billion green industry, weed is the biggest job creating machine in the US, driving the economy with hundreds thousand new high paying jobs created.

      “Combined adult-use and medical cannabis sales hit $580 million in calendar 2018, the first full year of legal recreational sales.”

      The UK is most likely going do a hard Brexit,they will no longer be able export their weed/medicine into the EU.Ireland had/has a once lifetime opportunity to grab this market for generations,with early mover advantage,FG the so called pro business party are determined to blow it.

      1. Cian

        Colorado- thanks.
        But if we are only looking at medicinal it’s in the €170m/year region. So not a billion-euro industry.

        And your link to Washington shows that the State Department of Health is the “independent regulator” ?

        1. Cian

          Also none of Alaska, Colorado, Nevada, Oregon, have “independent regulators” they are all state-level entities – the equivalent of our Dept Health.

          1. V

            Is that what you’re really here for Cian
            Spindler for Leo?
            Like hard on campaignforLeo
            Like we know your motive is generally to police the gaff and steer discussion by way of stats n’facts like a not so bright head boy
            Help your man’s people keep their shirts tucked in stuff

            And Fair enough
            You might have found a few dropped stitches in Johnny’s work

            But what you should know is that if I Google Merrion Capital, which the HPR whatever say is David Holohan’s employment,
            I find out about a Central Bank Fine
            For Fitness and Probity breeches btw
            Over a number of years ….
            All of them while a HPRA director was actually in a PCF role there

            How the eff did StateBoards.ie miss that huh?

            I suppose that’s not as bad as MAMLs recent settlement (over a hundred million btw) with the Paddies for what can now treated under Anti Money Laundering

            Incidentally, any Director, not just this gentleman, should ensure all publicly hosted information about them is correct and up-to-date. Fitness and Probity like.

            But what harm – all that Merrion stuff is Cantor Fitzs problem now

            Make no mistake Cian, faff around here all you like
            If Irish Farmers can convert and diversify into Cannabis growing, you are looking at agri export trade on the 100s of mills.
            As Johnny Green said a while back
            There is the capacity for another Kerrygold asset for Irish Farmers in Irish Weed

            Try all you like
            You’re not fooling me

            Broadsheeters, Fine Gael shafting the Irish Beef industry was no mistake
            And they didn’t do it for nothing either

            Now ye know why Phil was given another five years

          2. Cian

            V I don’t get personal. I’m looking at the facts. I don’t have a horse in this race. And if I were a FG shill (Which I’m not) surely I’d be pushing for a new agency? All those FG Friends that could be put on the board?

            You are arguing that the directors of HPRA aren’t adequate. I don’t have a view on this – I don’t have the knowledge to take a position.
            Either way the question is if HPRA should manage medicinal cannibas not if the HPRA is well run. If a new agency were set up it will be filled with the same calibre of members… So what is the point?

            My other point is we are talking a sub 200m market – not the billion mentioned above.

        2. Cian

          One last thing. We spend €3bn per annum on human pharmaceuticals (overseen by HPRA as one part of their remit) so even if it were 1bn – that is less than a third of their current oversight. Secondly cannabis would replace other drugs, so their overall value should decline as cannibas eats into ‘big medicine’.

          Value isn’t a valid reason not to use the HPRA. Any new agency would also have its directors chosen by the government – so would have the dreaded FG stamp. So what can a different agency provide that HPRA can’t ? Why are you pushing for a duplicate agency?

          1. Johnny Green

            Cian-there is and was no discussion on this on Irl, as there’s simply no political will within FG to deal with cannabis,FG are terrified of cannabis,they don’t have vision and the skill set to legislate for it.
            Do you really believe recreational cannabis is that far out,it’s not and it’s going happen,as such any competent govt would plan ahead.
            The HPRA is not fit for purpose,they are currently awarding importation licenses but in complete secrecy,the ‘winners’ of these licenses will be positioned to take advantage of the inevitable med and rec market.

          2. V

            Shur we all know what the play is

            Wait for the EU to do get it done
            And grab their coat tails

            Why d’ye think Big Phil was put back onto the top table?

  4. V

    By the way everyone
    Especially you Cian

    The very notion that any Director in charge with Governance obligations and responsibility
    is above reproach in every way
    Even a Ministerial appointed Director
    Even one PCF’ed by the Central Bank
    Even a voluntary one

    Is absurd practice
    Reckless, careless and dangerous

    Now ye don’t get to complain about the boards of the FAI, INM, RTÉ …. adjust to taste lads
    Or Senior big ticket appointments

  5. Johnny Green

    Update’-NANAIMO, British Columbia–(BUSINESS WIRE)–Tilray Inc. (TLRY:NASDAQ), a global pioneer in cannabis cultivation, processing and distribution, today announced that it has successfully imported Good Manufacturing Practices (GMP)-certified finished medical cannabis oral solutions into Ireland intended for nationwide distribution.‘

    1. B9Com From No

      This is all perfectly legitimate and above board
      And entirely within the public interest

      Who are we to judge?
      Even to ask questions!
      Who do we think we are?

      (-am I doing it right Cian?)

    2. eoin

      One Canadian company is “serving tens of thousands of patients in 13 countries spanning five continents”. I wonder how many Irish companies doing the same would it take to make it a €1bn annual turnover industry here?

        1. V

          the teenager says the Irish for weed is
          fiaile or fiailí
          Cannabis = cannabas
          Marijuana= cnáib

          we all know féar don’t we
          but did ye know luibh = herb

          What do you think of
          Paddy Ni’ Fiailí
          or Leprechaun Luibh
          Císte Cnáib ?

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