By Emily Ledger
Ecuador has introduced new hemp laws, legalising the cultivation of the cannabis plant up to a THC limit of 1.0%. The plant has been excluded from the country’s list of controlled substances under the Comprehensive Organic Criminal Code (COIP).
Under the new legislation, hemp will be placed controlled by the Ministry of Agriculture and Livestock. The Ministry is expected to set out regulations and guidelines for the cultivation of hemp within 120 days of the law’s enactment at the end of June.
Ecuador’s Hemp Laws
Hemp cultivation has been illegal in the South American country until now, despite the climate being favourable for the plant. However, the THC limit set by the new law will allow the country’s new hemp industry to effectively compete with other countries.
Although many are pleased with the new hemp laws, there has been some criticism of some of the rules. The Federation of Cannabis Communities of Ecuador has questioned rules that they say would limit the ability of small-scale producers and peasants to enter the industry. For example, licenses and fees will apply to those who want to cultivate the crop.
THC Limits in Hemp Cultivation
In most countries that currently allow hemp cultivation, the global standard THC limit of 0.3% is adhered to. Nonetheless, a growing number of jurisdictions have raised the limit to 1.0% THC, including Switzerland, South Africa, and Thailand.
In contrast, EU member states are generally limited to a THC limit of 0.2%, although Italy is known to tolerate the cultivation of plants up to 0.6% THC.
Hemp plants with higher THC levels tend to also produce a higher concentration of CBD (cannabidiol). Products containing CBD have gained massive popularity in recent years, making the ingredient the most lucrative hemp-derived product. This may give countries with higher THC limits an advantage in the expanding CBD market.
Medical Cannabis in Ecuador
Alongside the legalisation of hemp, medical cannabis will also be permitted in Ecuador. In September 2019, the country’s legislature approved the medicinal use of cannabis up to 1.0% THC. The co-occurring expansion of Ecuador’s hemp industry may also help to expand the production of medical cannabis products in the country.
There have been calls for expansion of the hemp industries around the world, including in the UK. The environmental benefits and revenue opportunities presented by the crop has put hemp on the agenda.