Growing Hemp in Ireland
Ireland is late to the game with regard to cultivation and processing of hemp. However, we can still grab a slice of the action and we certainly don’t need to reinvent the wheel. Our farming community is knowledgeable, energetic and hungry for change. In Canada and America much of the waste and the unnecessary use of oil/energy is due to government imposed regulations. While the Irish government is ironing out the kinks in our regulatory framework we should be encouraging them to consider the environmental impacts of those regulations while putting systems in place to support our farmers.
Before researching the growing, processing and the product design of hemp derived products it is important to carefully study local regulations and how they impact the entire industry. Throughout this article we will attempt to cover the most common questions asked of us over the last few years while supporting farms, consulting for hemp companies and while designing our own products.
If there is more information you feel should be added please comment your question below.
What is CBD (Cannabidiol)?
CBD is a chemical compound derived from Cannabis Sativa.
Cannabidiol is a well researched, single chemical compound with numerous end uses. It has come under scrutiny under the last number of years since the regulatory issues associated with its processing and marketing are complex both from a policy and scientific perspective.
CBD in its purest state (as isolated CBD/CBD isolate) is devoid of any other detectible chemicals or plant matter. It is one of many chemical compounds found in hemp/cannabis.
How is CBD made?
CBD is made by repeatedly purifying concentrated cannabis flowers (or hemp flowers) into crude oils and then sending those oils through advanced filtration systems.
The processing of hemp flowers in Ireland is currently prohibited unless on site at the farm where the processing is deemed 'destroying the flower'. Hemp flowers may be processed in member states and throughout North America and are freely imported and moved throughout Europe.
What is CBD used for?
When produced in strict, controlled settings (and put through rigorous testing and regulatory hurdles) it may be classified as a medicine.
It is approved for use as an ingredient in cosmetics throughout Europe.
It is approved as a food supplement throughout Europe.
What is Hemp Oil/CBD Oil?
Hemp oil is generally described as the oil obtained from the pressing of the whole hemp plant or flower from the hemp. In some recently marketed products it may also mean isolated CBD or full spectrum extract in a carrier oil.
Hemp Oil Composition
Depending on which part of the crop cycle the plant was harvested, hemp oil may contain cannabinoids, proteins, fibre, oil and minerals. It generally varies in chemical make up from batch to batch.
What is Hemp Seed Oil?
Hemp seed oil is obtained from the seeds of the hemp plant. Hemp seeds do not contain cannabinoids. If seeds are not cleaned properly, there may be trace amount of cannabinoids on the seeds.
Hemp seed oil is produced by pressing hemp seeds only. Hemp seeds form after the plant has flowered. Its cycle can be compared to that of flax, dandelion, pea plant or borage. Once a hemp plant gets to seeding stage there are no cannabinoids (CBD, THC or otherwise) in the seeds.
Hemp Seed Oil Composition
Although its fatty acid composition is most often noted, with oil content ranging from 25-35%, whole hemp seed is additionally comprised of approximately 20-25% protein, 20-30% carbohydrates, and 10-15% fiber, along with an array of trace minerals.
Hemp seed oil contains linoleic acid (LA) and -linolenic acid (LNA) as its major omega-6 and omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFA), respectively.
Hemp seed oil is great in skincare. It acts as an excellent skin treatment - used for anti-aging, anti-blemish, treatment of dry skin.
In the photo above you will see 3 grams of purified CBD isolate beside 60ml of hemp seed oil. The CBD is odourless and tasteless. The hemp seed oil is liquid with an earthy smell and strong taste. These are two different products/ingredients with various different uses.
What are the current rules around growing hemp in Ireland?
Strain to be grown must have a THC content below 0.2%
Licence must be obtained from the HPRA. The HPRA – licensing pursuant to powers granted to the Minister of Health under the Misuse of Drugs Act 1977 – has broad discretionary powers when granting licences.
Farmer must have contract with buyer or outline intention for use of the crop, supply coordinates of crop location, obtain seed from approved provider and outline arrangements for safety and security of crop.
Does growing hemp provide a good return for farmers in Ireland?
Currently, licensing is not robust enough to support a vertically-integrated industry in Ireland. Hemp seed cultivation is a great way for farmers to learn how to handle the plant. We recommend growing for hemp seed to begin.
Some of the restrictions /roadblocks include (but are not limited to;
- Licensing is overseen by the HPRA, not the Dept. of Agriculture as would be expected, with communications regarding end products being under The Department of Health's remit.
- There is no standard licensing regime, outside of pharma licensing for hemp processing. This leaves farmers, logistics providers, processors and end users at risk.
- Ireland is confined to using cultivars from the OECD list, with no access to more advanced feminised strains.
- A lack of clarity regarding regulations and many processors operating while relying on loopholes is slowing progress across the wider industry.
Why are hemp regulations important?
The lack of regulatory framework is resulting in;
- a lost opportunity for Ireland and the Irish industry to capitalize on hemp, hemp derived products and growing cannabinoid market
- other EU jurisdictions being afforded an advantage and the opportunity to move ahead with research and the production of safe products
- the continuation of the illegal cannabis/hemp market and unregulated/counterfeit products
- potential harm to consumers/general public
- a lost opportunity for incorporating hemp and it's possible advantages in combating climate change and carbon costs
What is happening in other countries?
Canada are international leaders in hemp production and very forward thinking in their policy implementation. The Canadian decision to change laws surrounding the restriction of hemp growth was spurred by their National Health department who gained confidence from the positive research conducted in Canada and the data gathered from international sources at the time. Generally referred to as “Whole plant” harvest, a new Canadian policy change to allow CBD extraction is set to generate up to $10 billion in Canadian economic activity over the next 10 years.
The market for CBD as a potential input for medical products, supplements and beauty products is growing exponentially.
The Canadian government were supportive of hemp entrepreneurs in their execution of policy. If they waited one or two more years the American market would have grabbed the entire market. This is an important example for Ireland who have the opportunity to jump out ahead of the UK and establish ourselves as a gateway between the North American and European markets.
Canada are restricted in their import/export opportunities.
If we can cultivate and process in Ireland we can serve many markets close to home.
We are continually updating our blogs to cover updated regulations, licensing systems and market updates. Please leave any additional questions you may have below.
At this time, we are not looking for additional growers. Please sign up to our newsletter to keep up to date with upcoming partner outreach updates.
Great article! Thank you so much for sharing this very informative article.
Liquid Carbon for Agriculture
I am interested in growing Hemp . In the FarmLand video there was a figure quoted for “return” of 1500 to 4000 euro per acre . I an trying to understand what is the definition of “return”. Is it turnover, gross profit , or net profit before tax . Can you contact me about growing hemp .
A lot of general information but the key question for farmers was not addressed . What the farmer needs to know is what PROFIT per acre can he/she can expect growing hemp . I saw a Farmland video where Leah Fletcher quoted a figure of €1500 to €4000 Euro per acre for the upper part of the plant ( flower, seeds and leaves ) as the “RETURN” The term “return” is a vague term that needs to be defined . Is the “return” figure mentioned , the sales revenue , the gross profit or net profit before tax ? It is very important to clarify what is the projected Net Profit per acre range ( before tax) the farmer can expect .
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