medical cannabis farms, bord na mona
© Jeffrey Holcombe

The Minister for Health continues to tackle the issue of access to medical cannabis, unemployment and sustainable energy via the idea of peat bogs as medical cannabis farms

In 2018, the Minister for Health, Simon Harris, said to agricultural programme Ear to the Ground:

“This is not about recreational use and people smoking joints. This is about using in a controlled way, in a monitored way, with the support of your clinician, a product that could ease your pain and suffering after you’ve tried all the conventional treatments.”

“This is a major priority for me and I really want to see this happen in 2019.”

How is this going in 2019?

In June of this year, Minister Harris signed the legislation into law which enables medical cannabis to be prescribed to patients until 2024. This is also known as “compassionate access”, which would be available as soon as autumn, via the Medical Cannabis Access Programme.

In July, he had an “interesting” and “good” meeting with Bord na Móna, who are responsible for the development of Irish peatlands and creating energy security from this resource. Currently, despite recent investments into the preservation of biodiversity, Bord na Móna are facing the fact that most peat-fired electricity sources will be finished in 25 years. In addition, the Irish government is reluctant to continue harvesting fossil fuels.

In the pressing urge to go from brown to green in sustainability, the company have confirmed their interest in producing cannabis on the peatlands, have previously suggested that they could give 5,000 hectares for farming the plants. There is cross-party support for the creation of cannabis farms for internal medical use, with murmurs of an eventual export business.

Minister Harris, however, emphasised that this company has a decision to make outside of government control, and the functional growth of cannabis plants is “far away”. Currently, for the autumn rollout of prescriptions, a supplier for import of medical cannabis products will be located.

Backers include Independent Roscommon–Galway TD Michael Fitzmaurice, who said:

“Instead of pulling weeds we will be sowing weed.”

Fianna Fail Seanad leader Catherine Ardagh has moved to confirm the support of her generally conservative party for the scheme. She said:

“I commend the Minister for Health, Deputy Harris, on meeting Bord na Móna to discuss the supply of medicinal cannabis.

“Bord na Móna has huge infrastructure and land and there are jobs at risk in the company.
“That the Government is collaborating with Bord na Móna in this novel way is heartening.”


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