Europe, Food & Drink, Legal, News, Regulatory

Germany’s Hempro Int. goes to court after request to import hemp leaves is rejected

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Leading European hemp company Hempro International GmbH has gone to court against Germany’s Federal Office for Consumer Protection and Food Safety (BVL) after the agency denied its request to import hemp leaves from Austria to Germany, which is legal under European Union rules.

A Hempro Int. import request was rejected by the BVL Sept. 22. The company said the administrative court of Braunschweig must undertake an urgent review of the matter to determine whether the BVL ruling violates the company’s rights as well as EU law.

Hempro Int.’s original application, filed April 22, 2021, sought to import the leaf material through a general decree, the manner in which cross-border trade in such goods may carried out legally in the EU. The company said the BVL decision contradicts the principle of the free movement of goods among EU member states under an established procedure set up by European law to quickly determine marketability with little bureaucracy.

‘Amateur’

“Germany again works like an amateur,” said Daniel Kruse, Managing Director of Hempro Int. “The EU introduces an accelerated procedure to promote the free movement of goods, and a German federal office applies the brake,” Kruse said. “As a German entrepreneur, I can only shake my head at this arbitrariness and the need to go the lengthy way through the courts.”

“In Austria, Belgium and Luxembourg, unprocessed products made from industrial hemp – and this also includes hemp tea made from stripped hemp leaves – are already freely marketable,” Hempro Int. said in a press statement.

“The BVL is of the opinion that hemp leaves are narcotics,” the company noted. “The unreal reasoning: There is a risk of abuse for intoxication when hemp leaves are used for purposes other than tea, namely when baked in a ‘brownie’.”

Long-time hemp tea seller

With a THC content below 0.3% (maximum THC content for industrial hemp in Austria) or below 0.2% (current maximum THC content for industrial hemp in Germany), hemp leaves are anything but suitable for the production of intoxicating “drugs,” Hempro Int. has said.

A legacy European hemp company based in Düsseldorf, Hempro Int. has been selling domestically-grown hemp leaves as a tea product for years on the German market.

“We have been selling hemp leaf tea completely legally since 1996 and we want to continue selling this product,” said Kruse, who is also current president of the European Industrial Hemp Association (EIHA). “It is a completely safe product. It is impossible to achieve intoxication by drinking tea, smoking industrial hemp leaves, or by consuming industrial hemp-leaf baked pastries,” said Kruse. “Therefore, the assumption of a risk of abuse is completely out of touch and ignores reality.”

Solid legal background

Abuse for intoxication purposes must generally be ruled out for industrial hemp products, said Kai Friedrich Niermann of the law firm KFN+, which is representing Hempro Int. in its current case before the Braunschweig Administrative Court.

Germany’s Federal Court of Justice ruled on March 24, 2021 that the sale of hemp flowers and leaves to end customers is not prohibited in principle. In making that judgment, the federal court also referred to a 1996 opinion by the Federal Ministry of Health which advised that “abuse for intoxicating purposes of industrial hemp was not to be expected.”

The supply and possession of unprocessed industrial hemp products to end consumers is therefore not subject to Germany’s Narcotics Act, Hempro suggested.

Until the court determines an outcome in the case, sales of hemp leaf tea and existing jobs are at risk, Hempro Int. warned.

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