Ireland’s Quirky Cannabis Culture Is a Trip
An inquisitive travel writer helps you experience “Higherland.”
Published on October 17, 2016

Disclaimer: Marijuana is illegal in Ireland and the author will only admit to vaporizing sage while abroad. The sage plant is legal everywhere, you guys. #calmdown

The first vape sesh after a six-hour plane ride is a beautiful thing. I inhaled deeply and soaked in the scenery as I waited for the bus to take me into town. I spotted an older American lady nearby firing up her vape and gazing into the Irish clouds. I gave her a nod in sisterly stoner solidarity and grinned to myself. I was officially in “Higherland.”

The double-decker bus arrived, ready to take us all into Dublin. A simple gal from Nebraska, I had never been on a two-story bus so I was visibly excited to sit up so high. There was a big TV screen at the front of the bus and I had a bag full of Irish airport snacks. I sat back, happily high (in more ways than one) and ready to see what Ireland had to show me. 

As we entered a tunnel, the friendly commercial on the bus TV screen suddenly turned into a terrifying ad for the “Halloween Bus.” Looking out the windows I could see a thick mist swirling around the green lights of the tunnel while the sounds of screams and cackles emerged from the screen. My first thought was that it was an enjoyable hallucination but my husband (who doesn’t partake in weed or paganism) confirmed that it was an actual commercial and not just my Halloween dreams coming true. Apparently, Ireland loves Halloween as much as MERRY JANE does, so I have no choice but to love Ireland.

After the Halloween bus and a full Irish breakfast with a large Irish coffee, I reminded myself that I had an article about cannabis to write. And just then a sign appeared, as if from a vision. There it was: a giant green marijuana leaf smiling down at me from above a modest store front. I had inadvertently stumbled upon The Hemp Company, a supplier of seeds, CBD products, vapes, and more.

Inside, there were a couple of dudes hanging out and the store was quiet, since it was 9 a.m. on a Saturday. When asked about cannabis culture in Ireland, they said there wasn’t much of one, but that positive changes were afoot. “People are more open to having a mature conversation about cannabis now,” the shopkeep said while I gazed around like a kid in a CBD store

What I discovered in the shop showed me firsthand how peculiar the Irish cannabis laws are. There were pot seeds for sale, though “not to plant,” but for a “hobby collection.” There were CBD products from Colorado and a lot of vapes, but no THC or actual weed around. Except for the seeds, which again, you weren’t actually supposed to go all the way with. It was all so Catholic.

The Hemp Company website features some cool history on an Irish fellow named William Brooke O’Shaughnessy, a physician in the 1800s who used cannabis as medicine. (For those of you interested in weed history, I recommend doing some research into Ireland’s fascinating 400-year-long relationship with hemp.)

The next day (and several whiskeys later) I found myself in a cab chatting it up with a cabbie from Bangladesh. He was happy to discuss the cannabis culture with me, revealing that although Dubliners are known for drinking, lots of them like to toke, too. “And cannabis is just…how do you say it? Cool,” he said. I asked if religion had anything to do with why cannabis wasn’t legal yet and he responded, “No, people here are too open-minded for that.” He blames alcohol, not Catholics.

After Dublin we headed to Sligo, a quaint seaside town that I chose due to its proximity to pagan attractions. At a local restaurant I saw a gal with a really sweet dragon painting on her messenger bag and I knew instinctively that she must be a stoner. We started up a conversation about European drug culture while she waited for her food to arrive.

She was travelling from Israel—where cannabis oils are super popular to vape because of how discreet they are—and told me about a park in Berlin where it’s easy to score some international green. (She admitted that her boyfriend did all the park/weed transactions so she didn’t have to feel sketched out.) She hadn’t bought weed in Ireland (yet) but had smelled it a lot on the streets and knew it was around.

“You can always find cannabis in Europe,” she said with a smile as the song “It’s a Small World After All” played in my brain. (Warning: This song is terrible, but it is a remix!)

So far I had spoken with a shopkeep, a cabbie, and a traveller about Ireland’s cannabis culture. But what about the older folks? I needed to speak with someone like my mom or grandma—someone outside the cannabis culture who could comment on it. At a pagan roadside attraction near Dingle I found a delightful lady just ready to dish. When I asked what she thought about Ireland legalizing medical marijuana she said “Marijuana? I don’t know anything about it, but I’m against it.” There was a pause as she thought. “Well, what do you mean by ‘medical’?” 

As I attempted to explain all the medical benefits of cannabis to her she got a strange look on her face and asked, “You mean, like, alternative medicine?” Apparently, she was a huge fan of alternative medicine and even had remedies made from a German lady that had cannabis listed as a main ingredient. “So, I suppose I use it myself!” She laughed and said she looked forward to researching this “medical marijuana thing” more.

Based on my experiences in Ireland, here are a few helpful tips for anyone traveling there:

Bring your own stash. The weed in Ireland is a little pricey—the kindly cabbie told me it was €50, or about $56, for three to four grams—and you won’t know what the quality is or if they will charge you more because you’re a tourist with a fanny pack. (I happen to love fanny packs.)

Stay in someone’s house, not a hotel or B&B. Hotels and B&Bs in Ireland can be expensive and you need to save your monies for weed. (Besides, stuffy B&B owners are always creepy and there’s no way to be sure they aren’t just ghosts haunting the place.) Why not save money and stay in someone’s actual house when they aren’t there? Live like a local and check out home-sharing websites for great deals and homey digs. (And these places are more likely to have cats. YASSSS.)

Rent that car! Driving on the wrong side of the road isn’t as crazy as you’d think (and weed can make people cautiously paranoid drivers). The scenery is beyond magical and the shades of green you’ll see will remind you of all your favorite strains. Get a manual, turn up the Enya, stay to the left, and enjoy the ride.

With its flair for the whimsical, a rich history of hemp, and a lovely climate for growing cannabis, Ireland is an ideal country to legalize marijuana. From what I’ve seen it seems like Ireland is well on its way to bringing the green back to the land. Godspeed, Higherland.

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Lauren Maul
Lauren Maul lives in Brooklyn, where she creates stories, music, and shows (while vaping.) See what she’s up to at
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