The owner of a city shop which dispenses products containing derivatives of the cannabis plant, has been charged with drug dealing offences – following the seizure of an estimated €120,000 worth of cannabis at his business premises and at his home last year.
James O’Brien (41) of Portacarron, Oughterard, runs the Little Collins CBD dispensary with his wife at 25 Upper Abbeygate Street, Galway.
Mr O’Brien appeared before Galway District Court charged with having cannabis in his possession at the shop and again at his home in Portacarron on May 10, 2019.
He was also charged with having cannabis for sale or supply to another at both locations on the same date.
Sergeant Aoife Curley, prosecuting, said the value of the drugs seized was €80,000 at the first location and €40,000 at the second. The DPP had directed the charges be dealt with at District Court level, she said.
Judge Fahy was amazed the DPP should direct the charges involving such a large value be kept in the District Court.
Sgt. Curley explained that although the value of the drugs seized was extremely high, it involved a different type of cannabis which had a very low threshold for potency.
“Some would argue this type of cannabis is legal,” she said.
Judge Fahy said she now understood the DPP’s decision. “The cannabidiol, which is legal, does not have the ingredient that gives the ‘high’ that ‘normal’ cannabis gives, but if it does give that ‘high’ it’s illegal,” she said.
Defence solicitor, Sean Acton, said the legal situation pertaining to the type of cannabis seized from his client was ‘a minefield’.
“This is a matter that will end up elsewhere. Customs know that. It’s about THC (the psycho-active chemical in cannabis). Anything less than 0.3% which is the European standard is legal, but Ireland has not adopted that law yet.
“There is a lacuna in the (Irish) law. This was 0.2%,” he said.
Judge Fahy asked if this had been a shop setting; Sgt. Curley clarified it was a shop and also a home setting. She said the charges read ‘cannabis’ – because it was cannabis.
Mr Acton said the substance had been tested abroad and was below the European law threshold (of 0.3%), but, he said, Irish law does not differentiate.
There is confusion over the legality and sale of Cannabidiol in Ireland.
Unlike other derivatives of the cannabis plant, CBD is not psychoactive and is legal in most European countries. However, under the Misuse of Drugs Act 1977, all derivatives of cannabis and hemp containing THC are illegal in Ireland – even if they contain only trace amounts.
Mr Acton said the substance was imported because it could be imported from one EU State into another EU State and it was legal.
He said a decision was due this month in the European Court about this matter.
Judge Fahy said this was not “a classic Section 15 (drug dealing) charge” and that was why the DPP had directed it be dealt with in the District Court.
“It’s the first here in Galway but I have heard about it with regards to the ingredient,” Judge Fahy added.
Mr Acton said he would in time be bringing a legal challenge against the State and he applied to the court to have the matter adjourned.
Judge Fahy accepted jurisdiction to deal with the case in her court and she remanded Mr O’Brien on continuing bail to appear back before the court again on March 1, to give Mr Acton time to look into the legality of the issue and clarify European law.
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Six Shinners to contest Galway City local elections in 2024
Bradley Bytes – a sort of political column with Dara Bradley
Sinn Féin is planning to run two candidates in each city electoral ward in the next Local Elections in 2024.
Party number-crunchers nationally want to flood local election tickets with candidates to pick up extra seats and capitalise on anti-Government sentiment that is circulating among a cohort of voters.
The Shinners ran too few candidates in the last General Election. It meant they could not capitalise fully from a swing to the party during that campaign. They left seats behind them.
Now they’re planning to run a record number of candidates. In Galway, that would mean two candidates in each of the three areas, City West, City Central and City East.
The thinking is that they need to pick up additional seats in local authority elections, so that they have sufficient councillors to vote for Sinn Féin candidates in Seanad elections. More councillors equals more senators.
Sinn Féin is very much preparing for Government; and while the polls suggest it’s the most popular party (at 34% according to the latest in the Sunday Times last weekend) and would likely win most Dáil seats if an election was held tomorrow, it would still need numbers in the Seanad to pass legislation.
One problem faced by Sinn Féin is the party might find it difficult to source six credible candidates to contest local elections in Galway.
Another problem with running two, rather than one, in each ward in Galway City is that SF could split the vote and end up not winning any seats at all.
In 2019, Councillors Mairéad Farrell, Mark Lohan and Cathal Ó Conchúir all lost their seats after dismal local elections. Farrell was since elected to the Dáil following her Lazarus comeback but the organisation locally is still wary of a fickle Galway electorate.
If Sinn Féin doesn’t win back those three seats lost in 2019, then the next locals would be deemed a massive failure.
Winning more than three seats on Galway City Council would be a success but are the Shinners willing to risk running two candidates in each ward, splitting the vote and ending up with egg on their faces?
Photo: Mairéad Farrell with fellow Sinn Féin members Mark Lohan and Cathal Ó Conchúir (back left) after she was elected to the Dáil in 2020. All lost had their seats in Galway City Council in 2019 after dismal local elections.
This is a shortened preview version of this column. For more Bradley Bytes, see the January 27 edition of the Galway City Tribune. You can buy a digital edition HERE.
Galway is seventh-worst city in Europe for car traffic congestion
From this week’s Galway City Tribune – Car traffic congestion in Galway is quickly rebounding to pre-pandemic levels, with commuters spending up to 94 hours caught on the city’s gridlocked arteries last year.
According to data compiled by INRIX, a world-leader in mobility data, Galway is the seventh-worst city in Europe for congestion, an 84% increase on its position in 2021.
The data shows that Galway places in the worst 50 cities in the world for congestion – taking 39th place, with Dublin the only other Irish city placing higher at Number 12.
While the figures show that car traffic has not fully returned to pre-Covid levels, the 2022 figures came within 13% of 2019 congestion rates.
This was despite vast numbers continuing to work from home last year, a worrying trend according to the local People Before Profit representative Adrian Curran.
In Cork, Limerick and Dublin, there had been a more lasting effect, showing decreases of 20%, 26% and 29% respectively, he said.
This is a shortened preview version of this story. To read the rest of the article, see the January 27 edition of the Galway City Tribune. You can support our journalism by buying a digital edition HERE.
Galway 2020 paid €110,000 for PR while cutting spends on arts events
From this week’s City Tribune – Galway 2020’s bank account statements for five months of 2020 reveal thousands of euro were spent on public relations firms and media advertising when its cultural programme was being cut and ‘revised’ during the upheaval at the onset of Covid-19.
The AIB statements date from April to September of 2020, when Covid-19 had seriously curtailed cultural activities of Galway 2020, the company behind the city and county’s European Capital of Culture. They show more than €110,000 was paid to Dublin-based public relations firm Q4 PR, in three separate payments in April, May and June of 2020.
Thousands more were paid to other public relations firms, radio stations and, to a lesser extent, newspapers.
In March of that year, Galway 2020 announced it was reviewing its programme of events due to Covid-19 restrictions imposed by Government after a global pandemic was declared, curtailing all events.
On April 7, it confirmed it was laying off staff and had ended its agreement with Helen Marriage and Artichoke which was providing creative direction.
Later that month, it issued statements to say it was exploring a ‘re-imagined’ programme of events to take place at the end of 2020 and 2021.
Although the amounts paid to media and PR companies other than Q4 PR are relatively small, compared with expenditure on other headings, the payments suggest the importance Galway 2020 placed on image and public perception around that time.
The bank statements were released to the Galway City Tribune following a protracted Freedom of Information request and after an appeal to the Office of Information Commissioner.
Many of the payees in the bank statements were redacted but the names of several PR and media organisations are listed as having been paid by Galway 2020.
This is a shortened preview version of this story. To read the rest of the article with details of the spending, see the January 27 edition of the Galway City Tribune. There is also coverage of this week’s rebranding and new vision of Galway 2020. You can support our journalism by buying a digital edition HERE.