John Daly: ''Demon weed' lined up to be new cash crop'
I wonder what Seamus Heaney would make of it? With the plan to grow medicinal cannabis on the vast Bord na Móna landscape looking increasingly likely, would it inspire our greatest modern poet to rejig a few lines of his wonderful Bogland: "We have no prairies to slice a big sun at evening/Our unfenced country is bog that keeps crusting." If the possibility of a once-illegal substance becoming a cash crop would set the corpses of our heroes spinning in their graves, then it seems cemeteries like Glasnevin and Glendalough are in for ground-breaking activity.
With turf's carbon footprint fast making it an outlawed substance, and cannabis now mutated from illegal alien to welcome visitor, the peatlands are due a transformation on a par with the rural electrification of the 1940s.
Bord na Móna is already in discussions with the Government to debate growing medicinal cannabis as part of plans to decarbonise, in keeping with climate-change requirements.
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Focused on creating opportunities through sustainable resource recovery, the company once associated with rich, dark treasure for the fires of Ireland will now recast its Midland kingdom into a domain for the healthy ganja of a new generation.
As part of its transition from a brown to green enterprise, this updated Bord na Móna will re-master its 80,000 hectares into a new-economy jobs bonanza on the back of what was once vilified as "the demon weed". These peatlands are perfect for medicinal cannabis farming and should create hundreds of replacement jobs as the company "looks at generating new projects and creating employment across the Midlands".
Planting trials for medicinal herbs are already under way on reclaimed bog at the company's Mount Lucas wind farm in Co Offaly, including yarrow, plantain, marshmallow and vervain, for eventual supply to the health and pharma sectors.
Should the trials prove successful, Ireland's medicinal cannabis will be given clearance to elbow its way into the growing multi-billion global market.
If our past international success was built on Kerrygold butter and Jameson whiskey, then the future is inextricably entwined with that stuff known formerly as wacky baccy, giggle smoke, mary jane and bobo bush.
Just think, in years to come when you venture to the pharmacy in search of a cure for the sniffles or a touch of gout, you may be directed to brands proudly displaying their Bord na Móna provenance - Lanesborough Skunk, Edenderry Yerba Bush or Shannonbridge Munchie Fruit. The mind boggles at the appellation possibilities. If the idea of outright legalisation of cannabis - as happened across the USA, Canada, South Africa, Spain and the Netherlands - might set old-fashioned hearts a-flutter, its economic benefits will likely blow away such concerns.
In the US, sales of legal marijuana are on target to out-perform soft drinks by 2030, in a sector valued at $100bn annually.
The tax take from the industry in California and Colorado has already given rise to increased government projects and social-welfare initiatives, not to mention a whole new breed of entrepreneur, creating thousands of jobs in the beauty, wellness and leisure sectors.
Cannabis has even impacted on the building industry, as architects have discovered mixing hemp's woody core with lime and water produces a natural, eco-friendly concrete. It costs half the price of conventional construction products.
In an Ireland wrestling to provide affordable housing, who'd have imagined the solution to our biggest social dilemma would be found at the door of our local hemp dealer?