I congratulate the participants who were involved in the recent Youth Assembly in the Dail and welcome their efforts in highlighting issues relating to Climate Change. One of their ten recommendations was the development of industrial hemp processing facilities in an effort to provide viable, sustainable and alternative land use for farmers as well as employment in rural Ireland.
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.
It is also clear from the consultation, and from meetings officials of my Department have had with industry representatives, 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. Currently, there are no processing facilities in Ireland. While my Department remains available to assist the industry, the Deputy should bear in mind that any developments in this area must be industry-led.