Germany’s Federal Association for Sustainability (BVNG) has called for a “sustainable industrial evolution” that fully exploits hemp, and is urging agreement among parties now forming the new government to adopt policies toward that end.
A key recommendation from the BVNG would raise the allowable level of THC in German industrial hemp crops from the current 0.2% to a full 1.0%, a change hemp farmers across the EU have strongly supported.
Citing a recent feasibility study that looked at the potential for a commercial hemp industry in the Lusatia region at Germany’s eastern border with Poland, BVNG said hemp can mean new jobs and advance structural development in the country’s rural areas.
‘New bioeconomic structures’
“By building new bioeconomic structures and an improved value chain, new and partly new types of employment can be created, and existing job profiles can be adapted with relatively little further training expenditure,” BVNG observed.
BVNG said more hemp research and pilot projects are needed to build out the German hemp industry. “This requires a reliable political and strategic framework,” said Martin Wittau, Vice President at BVNG, which has petitioned the three parties now involved in negotiations that will shape the government coalition: The Social Democrats (SPD), the Green Party (ALLIANCE 90), and the Free Democratic Party (FDP).
The association stressed that the potential of hemp to address environmental challenges should be central to policy going forward under the “traffic light coalition,” so named in Germany for colors associated with the parties.
Parties are aligned
With the environmental-oriented Green Party having a major seat in the coalition talks and cannabis policy alignment among the three parties, hemp stakeholders see an opportunity for Germany to speed up action against climate change based on hemp’s unrivaled ability to sequester carbon.
The Greens want to see Germany carbon neutral as quickly as possible through government spending and higher taxes. All three parties in the incoming coalition agree that hemp should not be under the country’s drug laws, and support removing bureaucratic barriers that hurt the cannabis industry, according to a pre-election poll by the Cannabis Business Industry Association (BvCW). The parties also agree there is a need for clear rules for CBD and other cannabinoids.
“German stakeholders stand by to advise the traffic light coalition as they develop policies to advance our national hemp industry,” said Daniel Kruse, CEO at leading German hemp company Hempro International GmbH, Düsseldorf. “We will be monitoring developments closely to see that these parties live up to their promises.”
Like the BVNG, BvCW has also called on the new government to provide funding for the development of the hemp industry, suggesting hemp business clusters can support regional growth and technology development as well as research into hemp’s potential in the construction industry, textiles and energy.
1.0% THC ‘essential’
BvCW has also recommended that the limit for THC in industrial hemp plants should be raised to 1.0% to give German hemp companies a better chance to compete in the broader global marketplace. The higher THC level is quickly gaining favor around the world over a generally observed 0.3% THC limit many countries have followed for decades.
“A higher THC value is essential for stable varieties and greater diversity with more uses for fiber, seed and extract production,” Kruse said. “Otherwise Germany and Europe will fall out of step with the global progress in the hemp sector.”
Raising the THC barrier is important especially for CBD producers; higher THC means higher levels of CBD, as the two compounds rise in proportion. For farmers, 1.0% THC allowable in hemp reduces the risk of their crops going “hot,” or over the allowable level.
Europe’s current guidance is 0.2% THC for hemp “on the field,” but the European Parliament voted last October to increase that level to 0.3%, expected to come into effect in early 2023. The Czech Republic re-set its THC level for hemp at 1.0% in September, and other EU countries are studying similar changes in spite of current EU guidance.
Kruse said the European Industrial Hemp Association, which he serves as president, is in line with all observations that grew out of the BVNG’s Lusatia study, which also include:
- Policy should emphasize climate-related benefits of industrial hemp. Hemp’s CO2 storage capacity combined with its relative robustness through periods of drought make hemp growing beneficial in both combating and adapting to climate change.
- Immediate market opportunities for hemp-based materials already exist, in technical fibers, spinnable cellulose, semi-finished industrial products and food supplements.
- Early formation of hemp clusters can lead to competitive advantages and drive investment by small and medium-sized enterprises.
- The potential exists to position Brandenburg as the center of the German commercial hemp industry.