Campaigners are urging the Home Office to tear up rules which are holding back the hemp industry and leaving the UK reliant on imports.
Current legislations require farmers of hemp, the plant which is used to extract valuable CBD for popular lifestyle products, to destroy 80 percent of their crop.
Domestic producers can extract CBD from the stalks and seeds but must dispose of the rest of the plant because it is controlled under the Misuse of Drugs Act despite holding no psychoactive properties.
The CBD industry is already worth £300m and is forecast to grow to £1bn by 2025 but British farmers are being locked out of the booming industry, say campaigners.
Instead, CBD manufacturers import raw material from abroad, with Switzerland – which allows hemp with THC content of up to one percent to be grown legally – benefiting the most.
The UK continues to follow EU rules on THC content in hemp – a strict limit of 0.2 percent that is set to rise to 0.3 percent – but campaigners argue there is a big opportunity for the Government to diverge from the bloc post-Brexit and help the sector boom.
A new report titled ‘Pleasant Lands’ coordinated by drugs reform advocacy group Volteface is calling on the Home Office to change course.
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.
“The CBD market must be embraced, and British cultivation would provide the UK 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 report’s findings have received political backing from influential chair of the all-party parliamentary group on drugs reform, Crispin Blunt MP.
The Conservative politician said: “People in the UK, as elsewhere, deserve safe access to first-rate CBD products.
“There is no reason why Britain should not produce them, to at least as high a standard as anywhere else.”
As previously reported, the issue is being discussed in Whitehall, with Environment Minister Victoria Prentis confirming that her department will be ‘commissioning a project into the potential use of under-utilised, underdeveloped or novel crops, including hemp’.
Another of the report’s authors, Lily Temperton of cannabis consultancy firm Hanway Associates, said freeing up the hemp industry ‘will create new jobs and infrastructure, boost the economy and allow UK farmers and businesses to compete with their European counterparts’.
Rob Jappie, industry expert and partner at Ince, said: “We urge the UK Home Office to grasp this opportunity to make hemp cultivation, along with utilisation of the entirety of the plant, a central part of British agricultural policy.”
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