I propose to take Questions Nos. 375 and 376 together.
As the Deputy may be aware, current legislation does not allow for the growing of hemp unless a specific licence has been granted by the Health Products Regulatory Authority (HPRA) which operates under the auspices of the Department of Health. In addition the cultivation of hemp (Cannabis genus) is restricted to varieties having less than 0.2% content of the narcotic compound Delta-9 Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). Cannabis (which includes hemp) is listed in schedule 1 of the Misuse of Drugs Regulations 2017, as amended which means it is subject to the strictest level of control.
Earlier this year, my Department concluded a broad consultation which included relevant bodies/agencies in an examination of growing hemp commercially. The consultation included the Departments of Health, Justice and Law Reform, the Health Products Regulatory Authority, Teagasc and the two representative bodies for Hemp.
A clear view arising from respondents in the consultation involved in regulation is that the domestic hemp industry should continue to be controlled and regulated by the Department of Health and that the current stringent controls in relation to growing hemp should continue. This strict regulation is in line with the situation in many other countries.
An oversupply of industrial hemp in the European market has resulted in current low value for the majority of products from hemp. A number of large scale hemp processing facilities in Europe have failed and the lack of processing facilities in Ireland, which are required to be in close proximity to hemp growers, is also an issue.
Officials of my Department have met with industry representatives on a number of occasions and it is clear from all of those consultations that further in-depth research and financial analysis is required to be undertaken by the industry in order to determine if the establishment of processing facilities in Ireland is commercially viable. While my Department remains available to assist, it must be borne in mind that any development in this area must be industry-led.