Hemp could ‘breath new life’ into rural Ireland

July 18th, 2019

Hemp could “breathe new life” into rural Ireland and create over 80,000 jobs across the country, an industry expert has said.

Speaking at a conference hosted by Teagasc earlier this month, Kaya O’Riordan of CB1 Botanicals said that Ireland has a “very suitable soil and climate” for hemp growth.

The industry, she said, has the potential to create 82,000 jobs and “breathe new life” into rural Ireland.

Hemps uses included making hemp oil and Cannabidiol (CBD) oil to treat anxiety and improve sleep, hempcrete for building and insulation, and protein-rich food products.

Ms O’Riordan added that hemp can also be used as a bioplastic that can decompose in 80 days and also acts as a valuable carbon sink, capturing almost nine tonnes of CO2 per acre.

“It is worth noting that the equivalent cost for 1 million tonnes of CO2 sequestration from hemp is $20 million. Whereas the Irish government has spent over €125 million on carbon credits since 2007” she said.

According to the Health Products Regulatory Authority’s (HPRA) Emer O’Neill, growing licence applications tripled from 24 in 2018 to 77 this year.

The increase comes, she said, as the hemp industry explodes globally, with industry expert Paul Benhaim adding that Ireland could be the hemp “jewel” of Europe.

Mr Benhaim, an Australian native, has been in the industry since 1993 and is now the Chief Information Officer of a billion-dollar company, Elixinol.

He believes that Ireland could be a leader in this industry but that current legislation was preventing such growth.

Experts at the event all agreed that the stigma that still surrounds the plant is limiting the industry’s growth, largely a result of the US War on Drugs and the portrayal of the crop’s link to cannabis in the media.

Hemp is a strain of the Cannabis Sativa plant which is grown for industrial use and contains many essential fatty acids.

It is high in CBD but below .3 per cent of the psychoactive substance Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC).  This is unlike marijuana that also comes from Cannabis Sativa but contains more than .3 per cent THC.

As it stands, Irish hemp must be grown where it is not visible to the public, with only certain parts of the plant allowed to be harvested.

The leaves of the plant are high in protein and can be used for foodstuffs but must currently be disposed of in accordance with the law.

In addition, there is confusion around what is allowed in CBD products in Ireland.  By law, CBD infused products such as oils, teas, and various foods can have up to .02 per cent THC content.

The Gardaí have operated on a zero-tolerance policy to date, cracking down on shops and cafes selling CBD products this year, including Blooms Cafe in Co Waterford and Little Collins Dispensary in Co Galway.

By Marianne Foody

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