By Roland Sebestyén
British medical cannabis businesses and organisations call for action after a report reveals that the “draconian” hemp legislation forces farmers to burn up to 80% of the crop, including the flower, the most valuable and CBD-rich part of the hemp plant.
A new report, coordinated by Volteface, is promising a solution to ‘draconian, pointless’ hemp legislation.
The paper, which has been backed by Conservative MP Crispin Blunt, outlines the economic and environmental benefits of embracing hemp, by promising to boost ‘the government’s promised green recovery and kick start the economic bounce-back by boosters coffers’ to the Treasury’s much-depleted finances.
The British CBD market is currently worth £300million with estimates valuing the market at around £1billion by 2025.
In the last few weeks Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) Minister Victoria Prentis has discussed solutions to hemp policy, while George Freeman MP has championed hemp reform and investment as part of the Taskforce for Innovation, Growth and Regulation.
The report calls for a model which imitates the Swiss model whereby farmers can grow crops containing levels of up to 1% THC in addition to streamlining licencing practices to allow for farmers to extract CBD from the whole hemp plant. Currently, farmers are only permitted to utilise the stalks and seeds of the plant.
Under current legislation, farmers are forced to burn up to 80% of the crop, including the flower, the most valuable and CBD-rich part of the hemp plant.
Hemp and extracted CBD are non-psychotropic but the policy is tied up with costly and bureaucratic licencing which make the crop difficult to financially benefit from.
CBD is available on the shelves of major retailers including Holland & Barrett and Boots, but UK farmers are unable to extract CBD from hemp flower due to a UK Home Office policy requiring its destruction, leaving the UK reliant on imports.
Many European countries permit the sale of hemp flower and its extraction for CBD, placing our farmers at an unfair disadvantage.
CBD is classed as a novel food, not a narcotic – but British farmers are stuck in a paradoxical situation which means they are losing out on the ability to supply the thriving consumer CBD market.
Paul North, Director of Volteface, said:
It is embarrassing that the UK has an industry which is currently worth £300 million, but British farmers are not benefiting from it.
He continued: “The CBD market must be embraced, and British cultivation would provide the UK with a major growth industry to help the UK bounce back during the Covid recovery. Let’s back British farmers and make changes to this pointless, draconian situation.”
The issue is linked to EU policy and subsidies which the UK is moving away from.
The vast majority of CBD on offer on shelves of UK wellness shops is imported from Switzerland. Switzerland, not bound by the EEA, is the only European country that allows a threshold of 1% THC whilst the EU has a threshold of 0.2%.
Leaving the EU opens an opportunity for the UK to imitate the Swiss guidance, and allow British farmers to cash in now legal sovereignty lies with the union and not the EU.
The move would help to demonstrate legislative sovereignty after leaving the EU and could open up Britain to be medical cannabis and CBD leader in Europe, with cannabis companies recently being green-lit to list on the London Stock Exchange for the first time.