By Emily Ledger
Volteface, a UK-based drug reform advocacy organisation, has launched a new campaign to drive hemp reform in the UK. Pleasant Lands calls for the UK government to ease restrictions that have put British hemp farmers at a disadvantage to their global counterparts for decades.
Pleasant Lands – A Primed Policy Solution
Volteface has launched the Pleasant Lands campaign to raise awareness around the state of the UK hemp industry. The Pleasant Land report- set to be published in August – will present the government with a policy solution to address the shortcomings of current regulations.
The campaign will be overseen by leading experts in the hemp regulation and extraction industries. The Pleasant Lands report will draw on the experiences of UK hemp farmers and are asking for shareholders to join the campaign’s coalition for reform.
What is Hemp?
Hemp refers to plants of the Cannabis Sativa family that have a low THC – the compound associated with the cannabis high – concentrations. Hemp has been associated with human cultivation for thousands of years thanks to its potential to serve many end uses. The plant has been historically used to make clothing, weapons, and for construction as well as for medicines.
However, due to the plant’s association with ‘marijuana’ – a slang term for high-THC cannabis – hemp has been the victim of overly harsh controls for around five decades. The 1971 Misuse of Drugs Act placed restrictions on the cultivation of all cannabis plants – regardless of THC content.
Hemp Cultivation in the UK
To grow hemp in the UK, farmers must gain a Home Office-issued license. Guidelines require that crops are grown from EU-approved strains containing a maximum of 0.2% THC.
In recent years, global hemp cultivation has seen a massive boom, thanks largely to the ever-growing popularity of CBD products. In many countries, hemp farmers can cultivate the plant for use in CBD extraction, creating a significant extra revenue opportunity.
However, farmers in the UK are still unable – by law – to process their plants for this purpose, despite CBD being legal in the country. Home office regulations state that farmers can only utilise the seeds and fibre of the crop – which contain little to no CBD. Additionally, the high-CBD leaves and flowers must be destroyed on-site to comply with cultivation rules.
We spoke to Liz McCulloch, author of the Pleasant Lands report and Director of Policy at Volteface:
“I think if you speak to the average person in the UK they would be astounded that farmers have to destroy the most valuable part of their crop. Pleasant Lands will act as the vehicle for change, encompassing a range of expertise, experiences and interests in hemp cultivation.”
In addition to products containing CBD extracts, CBD flowers and buds have become increasingly commonplace in the UK. Despite these products being readily available in both retail stores and online, they are technically illegal. The leaves and flowers of the hemp plant are classed as a controlled substance, regardless of the THC content.
What are the benefits of hemp reform?
The Pleasant Lands report will aim to give the government the necessary information to make a decision about hemp reform. It is hoped that in the future, hemp farmers will be permitted to utilise the whole plant. Reform would allow UK farmers to enter an already booming global industry, boosting cultivation and helping to improve the environment at the same time.
As the Coronavirus pandemic plunges the country into the worst recession in decades, liberalising the hemp industry would help to drive economic growth and green recovery. Brexit also offers an opportunity to deviate from some of the EU’s restrictive measures on hemp cultivation.
The Environmental Benefits of Hemp
Industrial hemp is known to be extremely beneficial to its surrounding environment. Thanks to the plant’s fast-growing times, hemp is very efficient at holding CO2 from the environment. In addition, it is also known to improve soil quality by reducing the presence of toxic chemicals and metals.
Parts of the plant can also be utilised in the production of environmentally friendly products. For example, hemp paper can be recycled much more efficiently than timber paper; hemp can be used to make bioplastics which can degrade in just a few months.