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German court clears tea sellers, marking path for food products

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Germany’s Federal Court of Justice (BGH) has annulled charges against a group of Braunschweig hemp tea sellers, and in the meantime paved the way for the sale of food products based on hemp flowers and leaves on the German market.

Contrary to the opinion of the regional court, provisions in Germany’s Narcotics Act “do not generally prohibit the sale (of hemp flowers and leaves) to end customers for consumption purposes,” BGH said in overturning the case, which raised questions about THC in hemp products derived from the plant’s buds.

Trafficking in . . . tea

The high court’s ruling came in a case that started in a German Regional Court, in which unidentified Braunschweig hemp tea sellers were charged with drug trafficking. The district court sentenced the defendants to several months’ imprisonment for dealing in narcotics but suspended the jail time, placing them on probation.

“In its judgment of March 24, 2021, the BGH declares that the sale of hemp flowers and leaves to end customers is not prohibited in principle,” leading German hemp company Hempro International GmbH, Dusseldorf, underscored in a press release following the ruling.

While noting the Regional Court did not error in law in its ruling on the case, BGH said the lower court’s ruling “did not examine whether the intent of the defendants also included the possibility of misuse of the distributed plant parts for intoxication purposes,” BGH said in a press statement.

Intake is benchmark

“When assessing the extent to which abuse for intoxicating purposes is conceivable under the law on narcotics, low-THC industrial hemp can no longer be charged as such,” Hempro Int said. “From now on it is more a matter of the actual intake of the psychoactive substance THC.”

“The supply and possession of unprocessed industrial hemp products to end consumers is therefore not subject to the Narcotics Act as long as deliberate abuse for intoxication purposes is excluded,” Hempro said.

“This means that I can finally use and market hemp leaves for the production of traditional foods, such as tea preparations, without risking a prison sentence,” said Daniel Kruse, Hempro Int Managing Director and President of the European Industrial Hemp Association.

Germany’s Cannabis Industry Association (BvCW) also welcomed the BGH decision. “This means a great relief for the sellers, who have so far been often affected by raids that damage their business,” the Association said in a statement.

“For politics, the judgment means dealing with the question of how industrial hemp and its products can get out of the clutches of the Narcotics Act as a whole,” said BvCW Managing Director Jürgen Neumeyer. “Despite today’s verdict, we will learn of BtMG-related (narcotics) regulations that continue to make it difficult to make extensive use of the many positive potentials of hemp here in Germany. Other countries, for example our neighbors in Switzerland or Austria, but also the USA, are years ahead of us on this issue.”

Hempro cases pending

Hempro Int filed suit against the City of Düsseldorf last year after the city banned the marketing and sales of food containing CBD in natural extract form. The company also currently has legal proceedings against the city of Braunschweig that date to 2019; that case challenges the city’s stop-sell order against a wholesale buyer of its HANF FARM branded hemp food oil. Hempro said this week it expects resolutions in those cases soon.

Kruse suggested industrial hemp should be completely deleted from the the German Narcotics Act in order to remove unnecessary bureaucratic hurdles that hamper the sector.

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