According to the data included in the second edition of the European Cannabis Report, prepared by the analysts of Prohibition Partners (a London-based consultancy and market analysis company), the market value of industrial cannabis is estimated at 520,000 euros.
While for medical cannabis (THC/CBD), the turnover (potential, as there is no domestic pharmaceutical production) is 580,000 billion euros.
However, considering the exponential increase in the last year, the first estimate has probably lost relevance in the case of CBD.
Ireland has already legalized cannabidiol products, and you can now buy CBD on Justbob!
But what about the hemp and CBD business in Ireland?
Industrial system and trade
During 2017, the Irish hemp market grew significantly: the Irish Health Products Regulatory Authority (HPRA) reported a 200% increase in the area under hemp cultivation with a 41% increase in the number of licences issued (17 in 2017 for 76.45 ha; 24 licences as of 20 July 2018, for an area of approximately 230 ha).
As Brian Houlihan, Curator of the Dublin Hemp Museum, pointed out, interest in hemp has increased with the establishment, in the last 12 months, of the Hemp Cooperative Ireland, a national reference point for companies interested in growing and processing fibre and seed hemp or trading goods derived from it.
A decade ago, 48 licences were issued for emerging biomass production, which was then compromised – a fate common to several other industries – by the financial and economic crisis of 2007-2010.
The market revival is also attributable to CBD’s success in herbal, food and cosmetic products available for sale in parapharmacies and specialized shops.
In fact, CBD is legal in Ireland and most European countries!
The distinction between CBD as a freely available product and CBD-containing medicines is essential to avoid consumer misunderstandings and ‘grey areas’, both legally and in terms of corporate responsibility for the sale and presentation of the product.
For the supply of genetically unmodified seeds (as well as materials and advice to farmers), we mention Fruit Hill Farm, which started 30 years ago as a small organic farm.
Active in the field of green building, The Traditional Lime Company, located south of Dublin, supplies hemp lime to the Hemp Building company, which promotes courses and consultancy activities.
The development of bio-composites as building materials is the subject of renewed interest by the Irish Government, which is encouraging research by the Dublin Institute of Technology, which is responsible for technical and commercial support for the promotion of hemp in the building sector.
Historically, hemp was cultivated in Ireland in the 18th century, although no trade was initiated. In the 20th century, between 1938 and 1945, some plots of land were converted to hemp to produce bird feed. In the 1960s, the first scientific studies on cultivation began, using the fibre varieties ‘Fibrimon’, with a total yield of 10 t/ha (2.5 t/ha for fibre).
The quality of the yarns obtained from the processing was slightly below the British standard. Given the price trend, hemp was not considered a sustainable raw material for papermaking.
In other European national contexts, research into industrial (non-food) uses for hemp has been undertaken in the country since the late 1980s. However, the high yield and the variety of possible uses have promoted a revaluation of the crop, especially since 1995.
In this context, there were two primary needs: implementing low-THC varieties and identifying domestic demand.
Without a paper industry, the options were to produce bio-fuels and fibreboard. Both options required the availability of uncultivated areas that the land (with the reduction of the set-aside regions) could not granulate, despite the prospects opened up by the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) and economic cohesion strategy defined in 1997 by the European Commission (better known as ‘Agenda 2000’).
The early 2000s saw a Dublin-based Company (now a permanent member of the EIHA) selling food and hemp fibre clothing.
At the time, the focus was on renewable energy and fibre as an insulation material: hemp could replace wood and petrochemicals.
Despite the possibility of growing it in compliance with current European standards and special conditions, the connection with cannabis, a ‘controlled substance’ under the drug law, discouraged its production (in 2004, 3 licences were issued).
Furthermore, tests carried out in 2001 on hemp by the National Authority for Agriculture and Food Development (Teagasc) had positive results (the humid and temperate climate allows production in different areas of the country), in itself a reasonable basis for the re-launch of the crop by small farmers.
However, despite subsequent validations for industrial use, the lack of processing facilities and investments inhibited its development for over a decade.
According to the latest European Drug Observatory Report, cannabis use among the 15-34-year-old population is estimated at 13.8% in the last year.
The National Drug Strategy 2017-2025 focuses on ‘harm reduction’ and rehabilitation from drug and alcohol use. Launched in July 2017, it is the third long-term drug strategy document adopted by the government. Still, it is the first case of an ‘integrated’ approach to illicit drug and alcohol use, in which health, quality of life and public safety are placed on a horizontal level.
Selective prevention programmes target at-risk groups of the population, including children of drug users, early school leavers and those involved in ‘anti-social’ behaviour.
Several selective interventions provided by the ‘Drugs Task Forces’ include local and regional ‘awareness-raising’ initiatives, especially in socially and economically disadvantaged communities. Interventions are also funded by the Youth Services Fund, which aims to prevent drug abuse by developing sports and recreational facilities and activities.