BRITISH farmers are calling for a relaxation in the rules surrounding cannabis and hemp farming with the country’s CBD industry totally reliant on imports.
Recent figures reported by The Times show that between 2010 and 2019 some 205 licences were issued to grow industrial hemp with 56 of these currently active.
Meanwhile 20 licences are currently active for those businesses looking to grow cannabis strains with a higher THC content, a BusinessCann Freedom of Information request has found.
Rebekah Shaman, chair of the British Hemp Association, says the UK needs to ease these restrictions in short shrift.
“Hemp growers are not able to use the leaves or the flowers, only the seeds and the stalk, and they are not allowed to extract CBD from these either.
“So we find ourselves in this ridiculous situation where an English CBD company has to grow cannabis in Portugal, or elsewhere in Europe, and import it into the UK for processing and sale.”
Guy Coxall, Chairman of HempTank and Compliance Director for the Cannabis Trades Association (CTA) said: “The existing hemp license covers traditional industrial uses for seeds and fibre, all of the other parts of the plant are classed as controlled substances.
“It is therefore illegal to grow cannabis to extract CBD and as a result everyone is having to import it from overseas at the moment.”
HempTank, the UK’s think tank for the hemp industry is putting together a White Paper to lobby the Government to change the regulations so that the whole plant can be used.
Mr Coxall believes as things stand, the UK is lagging behind in the development of a new ‘Green Industrial Revolution’.
“With the market developing at such speed we see a massive opportunity to boost the economy and create thousands of jobs. Farmers could benefit enormously – for example, some estimates say a hectare of hemp for CBD production is worth over £100,000 and even the stalk alone is double the value of a hectare of good quality corn.”
HempTank is currently exploring the development of two new hemp processing plants in the South of England and a mobile extraction unit to support the homegrown hemp and CBD industry.
The licences are issued by the Home Office, with a spokesperson saying Home Office said: “Cannabis flower and leaf are controlled drugs in the U.K. so are illegal to possess, supply, produce or cultivate without a licence.”
Its regulations stipulate that a licence ‘may be issued for the cultivation of cannabis plants with a low tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) content’.
These licences enable the use of ‘non-controlled parts of the plant – seeds and fibre mature stalk only’ and there needs to be a ‘defined commercial end use’
The British Hemp Association, which was formed in July 2018, has over 20 members representing all players in the hemp arena, including farmers, industrialists, producers, and consumers.
It is lobbying for an increase of the legal THC allowed in the hemp plant from 0.2% to at least 0.3% – as in the U.S. and Canada – but preferably 1%, like Switzerland, Australia and New Zealand.
It also wants farmers to be permitted to use industrial hemp seeds currently not listed on the EU seeds list that are more suited for the British climate.