IRELAND is undergoing a hemp awakening with the number of cultivation applications soaring dramatically.
The Health Products Regulatory Authority (HPRA) received 77 licence applications by the middle of last year, compared to 24 for the whole of 2018 and just seven in the previous year.
It says there are now almost 1,000 acres registered for cultivating crops of hemp and this is expected to rise to as much as 5,000 acres.
But, as in most European countries and its large neighbour the UK, strict rules govern the cultivation of the plant.
The HPRA stipulates that plants must contain less than 0.2% of THC, and cannot be cultivated in an area which is visible from the road.
The location of the crop has to be proven to Gardaí (the police) via land mapping, prior to the commencement of planting, and all farmers must be Garda vetted.
The Irish Times reports cannabis expert Kaya O’Riordan of CB1 Botanicals saying an Irish hemp industry has the potential to create over 80,000 jobs.
The Government is encouraging this diversification into hemp growing after earlier this year passing legislation allowing for patients access to medical cannabis in June this year.
Irish industry publication Irish Farming has also picked up on the potential for the hemp in the country highlighting how it can reduce its carbon footprint.
It says the ideal time for planting in Ireland, renowned for its wet and temperate climate, is late April, early May when the last frosts have gone.
It says Irish Hemp Growers and Processors Association say that the hemp sector will ‘only get bigger and better over the coming years, as the world seeks more renewable and environmentally friendly ways of producing products’.
Hemp has thousands of applications including bioplastics, construction, high protein foods and beverages, food supplements, textiles, paper products, composites, biofuel, graphene substitutes.
Major environmental benefits from its use include; carbon sequestration, enhanced biodiversity, land reclamation and the production of environmentally responsible industrial and consumer products.