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Will hemp prove to be a high growth story or a puff of smoke?

Advocates of the plant believe it offers far-reaching benefits, but regulatory and reputational hurdles are yet to be overcome

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The success of CBD businesses like Paul McCourt’s has resulted in a proliferation of enterprises across these shores, and beyond (stock photo)

The success of CBD businesses like Paul McCourt’s has resulted in a proliferation of enterprises across these shores, and beyond (stock photo)

The success of CBD businesses like Paul McCourt’s has resulted in a proliferation of enterprises across these shores, and beyond (stock photo)

It was while researching military history in 2008 that Paul McCourt, chief executive of Co Louth-based Celtic Wind, decided he wanted to bring the hemp industry to Ireland. While reading the diaries of soldiers who served under Napoleon Bonaparte, he found that the 19th century French military leader was a firm believer in the industrial cannabis sativa plant.

"He never went to war unless his hemp fields were fully stocked and harvested," said McCourt. "It was an amazing plant that they used for their uniforms or these hemp biscuits.

"I did a bit of a Google search and thought, 'Oh my god, this is cannabis'. Then I realised that it wasn't and that there was this whole industry across Europe and Canada. I did my research and thought, 'Ireland has to have this industry. Hemp has to come to Ireland'."