TWO senior figures in the European cannabis industry are leading the fight against over-zealous German law enforcement in a move which resonates with the recent KanaVape case.
In recent months German police and courts have launched a crackdown on makers and sellers of hemp tea saying the products are potentially ‘narcotic’.
However, German cannabis lawyer Kai-Friedrich Niermann and client Daniel Kruse of Hempro, have now called on the Federal Government to intervene.
They have petitioned for a ‘General Decree’ which would allow hemp leaves to be imported and sold freely – citing the existing European Union rules on the Free Movement of Goods.
“It’s Been Crazy”
Mr Niermann told BusinessCann: “Processed hemp leaves for herbal tea products have been widely available for decades but in the last few months the law enforcement authorities have decided to go after it – to confiscate it, and to start criminal proceedings against traders. It’s been crazy.
“When the law changed in 1995 to allow for the cultivation of industrial hemp in Germany there were no restrictions placed on this market, as it recognised low-THC hemp does not have the potential for intoxication.
“However, in recent months we have seen the law enforcement attitude change, so we are looking to bring an end to this by calling for the Government to recognise that these products can be imported freely under the principle of the Free Movement of Goods, which applies across the European Union member states.”
The first sign of a crackdown led to two Braunschweig hemp tea sellers receiving suspended prison sentences in a German Regional Court for ‘dealing in narcotics’.
However, in March this year Germany’s Federal Court of Justice (BGH) came down on the side of the tea sellers.
It said the provisions in Germany’s Narcotics Act ‘do not generally prohibit the sale (of hemp flowers and leaves) to end customers for consumption purposes’.
Nevertheless, last month police in Essen warned retailers they were breaking the law as they deemed ‘hemp and CBD products to be illegal’.
In a statement the police said: “The sale of ‘CBD hemp’ is fundamentally illegal and punishable….Imprisonment for sellers not less than one year… the ability to consume and thus the abuse for intoxication purposes is obvious.”
Days later Hempro International submitted an application to the Federal Office for Consumer Protection and Food Safety (BVL) asking it to issue a General Decree that would allow it to import hemp leaves from Austria.
Hemp/CBD Not A Narcotic
Daniel Kruse, Hempro International’s Managing Director and President of the European Industrial Hemp Association, said the leaves from industrial hemp are freely marketable in Austria as they do not fall under its narcotics law.
He said in a press release: “With a THC content below 0.3% the hemp leaves are anything but suitable for the production of intoxicating drugs.
“For an active state of intoxication, you need to consume around 15mg of THC. No one can drink that much tea made from industrial hemp leaves, let alone smoke it.
“That is completely unrealistic. Such scientifically and economically nonsensical interpretations and prejudices against industrial hemp will change with our application.”
The fightback is receiving support from the German Cannabis Industry Association (BvCW) with president Dr Stefan Meyer, saying: “The THC levels in CBD hemp flowers are usually so low that intoxication is impossible even when consuming an entire sales unit.
Remove Hemp From Narcotics Act
“Exceptions in the Narcotics Act apply to industrial hemp with a THC content of less than 0.2% THC. Currently, these exceptions are being interpreted in an increasingly restrictive way, without the law having changed.
“The interpretation of the alleged potential for abuse still has to be legally clarified after the BGH ruling. In the opinion of the BvCW, legal certainty should be clearly and unambiguously achieved by removing industrial hemp from the Narcotics Act.
The removal of industrial hemp from the Narcotics Act is also a goal of the Green Party, which is tipped to be the main party in the Bundestag following September’s national elections.
The plaintiffs hope the General Decree will be issued before the Bundestag is dissolved for the elections.
Last year’s KanaVape judgement by the European Court of Justice led to the European Union overturning its previous determination that CBD is a narcotic.
This case stemmed from the import of CBD flowers from Czechia into France with the defendants arguing this should be permitted under Free Movement of Goods rules.
German hemp and CBD products are mainly imported into the country from Luxembourg, Belgium and Austria as German farmers are not allowed to use or sell the flowers.