Belarus hemp stakeholders push back against strict enforcement

historical poster of belarussian hempFragment from Soviet era poster encouraging farmers to plant hemp.

By Brian Houlihan | HempToday – Belarus has some of the most restrictive cannabis and hemp laws in Europe. Yet despite the fears of reprisals, activists in the country are continuing their push for legal reforms.

”Cultivation, possession, purchasing, selling or transporting (hemp) is a criminal offense,” Piotr Markiełaŭ of Legalize Belarus told HempToday. “There is no distinction in the law between hemp and heroin, possession of either can cost you up to 5 years in prison. If a hemp plant accidentally grows up on your land you can face a fine.”

History of hemp in Belarus

Markiełaŭ said hemp was once widely used in Belarus and the wider region. “Hemp thread, fabric, flour, oil, paper, and other products were produced,” he notes. However, Markiełaŭ laments the current situation as “No hemp products are made in Belarus and everything we have available to buy is imported from abroad.”

Markiełaŭ recounts how in the 1950’s farmers in Belarus were encouraged to grow hemp in reclaimed bog-land. Posters were produced by the Soviets with a slogan which roughly translates to ‘Expand hemp crops on peat bogs!’.

This echoes a plan which the British developed for Ireland in the 19th century. It was their intention to use reclaimed bogs in Ireland to grow hemp to use in warfare against Russia. While the plans never came to fruition they did leave some of the most detailed maps of Ireland behind.

Government showing interest

Nonetheless, it appears the Belarussian government has some interest in hemp after Markiełaŭ discovered officials are seeking investment in the industry. The National Agency for Investment and Privatization recently listed an advertisement looking for 1 million Euro investment in hemp processing to produce hemp thread and other items.

Markiełaŭ believes such investment will help the government embrace hemp. “I think the government will find a way to legalize industrial hemp if they find an investor for this.”

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