Ireland should legalise the growing of cannabis so farmers can get paid for it, rather than the Kinahan gang, according to Luke Ming Flannagan MEP.
Flanagan, a Midlands-Northwest MEP, said that the Irish cannabis market could be worth €2bn and that this should be funneled to farmers and their local communities rather than drug gangs.
Highlighting that the Germans are to legalise the drug come 1 January 2024, the MEP said there should be fields of green cannabis across the country, with the contracts secured on a tender basis.
“And one thing that definitely wouldn’t happen, you wouldn’t have one farmer threaten to shoot his neighbour so he could take part of his market. Currently, that is what is happening [in the illegal drug trade],” he added.
Flanagan shared his views with the Irish Farmers Journal at his somewhat unusual stand at the National Ploughing Championships where he promoted the production of hemp and cannabis.
“I thought to myself, you know what, we need to get this a wider audience and we need to get it explained to people, by people who are actually farming and experiencing it and seeing what needs to be changed,” the MEP explained.
While hemp and cannabis are related, it is legal to grow hemp in Ireland, albeit under license. It is illegal to grow the stronger cannabis.
Flanagan said that he would “like to see more farmers farming it”, but highlighted the regulatory challenges that exist currently for such hemp crops.
“At the moment, it’s very difficult to ask a farmer to do something when they can only put together a one-year plan - because a hemp farmer has to apply for a license every year,” he said, adding that this isn’t suitable when making borrowing plans with banks.
MEP Flanagan also said that farmers should be allowed to grow hemp for feeding to their cattle and suggested that it could end Irish farming’s need for soya bean imports.
He said that humans consume hemp at CBD cafés and that it makes no sense why it can’t enter the livestock food chain.
“[Humans] used hemp products. They use hemp oil and, basically, human beings consume it, they are eating it. At the same time, farmers cannot feed hemp seed to cattle or they can’t feed it to livestock because apparently there’s a worry that something might come through in the meat or milk. Well people are actually eating direct so why can’t we feed it to cattle?
“One of the reasons I think it’d be an advantage to Irish farmers in being able to feed this is because it has an amino acid profile as good as soya and from the point of view of animal feed, it is excellent.
“I don’t think it’ll solve a fodder crisis, but what it would do is it’d mean we wouldn’t have to be importing so much soya from the Amazon rainforest, or what’s left of it.
"It would mean that we’d be more self-sufficient. It would also mean that our more very unique meat product around the world, not only can we say is the animal from Ireland, but that what it ate was from Ireland as well,” he said.