The Health Products Regulatory Authority (HPRA) issued 94 licences to cultivate hemp during 2020.

Mayo, Monaghan, Westmeath and Wicklow led the way, with eight licences issued to each county. All counties in the Republic of Ireland, apart from Longford, grew hemp in 2020.

This cash crop is a strain of the cannabis sativa plant species, which can be grown for over 50,000 different products including paper, clothing, biodegradable plastics and animal feed to mention but a few.

Although cannabis is a drug and industrial hemp also derives from the same species, they contain much different levels of the psychoactive component tetrahydrocannabinol (THC).

Hemp has lower concentrations of THC and higher concentrations of cannabidiol (CBD), which eliminates its psychoactive effects.

As of 7 May 2021, a total of 13 licences have been issued so far this year. In 2018, just 24 licences were issued.

The HPRA processes licences to grow hemp on behalf of the Department of Health.

The new figures were released by Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly following a parliamentary question from Social Democrats TD Holly Cairns.