International group urges creation of common language for hemp

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Creating a common language for hemp can unlock innovation and ease the incorporation of hemp products into global supply chains, according to a position paper issued this week by the Federation of International Hemp Organizations (FIHO).

Aimed primarily at distinguishing hemp from marijuana, an intersection that often causes confusion among consumers and therefore negatively impacts demand, the paper aims to clear up terminology for policymakers, and ultimately reduce associated risks and costs for farmers.

Bringing clarity

Lingering confusion has discouraged farmers from taking up hemp production and prevented hemp from reaching its full potential as a new cash crop that presents opportunities in animal feed, textiles, bioplastic, building material, soil regeneration, and carbon credits, according to the paper.

“As both hemp production and regulated markets for other uses of Cannabis are strongly re-emerging in many countries across the world, confusion will only increase without informing and educating political policymakers and professional regulators,” the paper warns.

While high-THC marijuana and low-THC hemp are separate varieties of the same plant species, Cannabis sativa L, confusion persists primarily due to lingering misconceptions as a result of the Drug Wars of the 20th Century. Therapeutic and recreational uses of marijuana are closely associated with concentrated and isolated cannabinoids and involve health considerations, but that’s not the case with hemp products, FIHO notes.

Defining ‘hemp’

FIHO said the recommendations will help individual jurisdictions develop regulations that, while recognizing country-by-country differences, will clearly distinguish marijuana from hemp.

The recommendations define “hemp products” as all products derived from hemp that comply with regulations in the jurisdiction where they are marketed. “Due account must be taken of: existing regulatory frameworks for food, feed and materials; farmers’ rights; the need for access and benefit-sharing for traditional and indigenous varieties,” according to the paper.

“Hemp” would be defined as a variety of Cannabis sativa L., the scientific name for the plant species which includes both marijuana and hemp. The definition extends to any part of the hemp plant in which the concentration of THC in the flowers and leaves is not more than the maximum level established by local authorities. Most countries around the world operate on a generally accepted THC limit of 0.3% for crops in the field, but some have recently increased to, or adopted 1.0% THC as the threshold for hemp.

The recommendations would also differentiate hemp crops from hemp products, and base THC limits on the amounts in those final products, rather than in the harvested plant itself. “Where stakeholder concerns render this approach unattainable, a regulatory system that differentiates crops based on use/purpose (fiber, grain, and flowers and leaves of the inflorescence) should be adopted in order to relieve pollinated hemp as an agricultural crop from scientifically unnecessary testing burdens,” the paper recommends.

Addressing trade code

FIHO also calls for clarification of hemp terminology in the Harmonized Tariff Schedule (HTS) code, a system used to classify goods for international trade. The organization said it working on specific recommendations under the HTS, which is the basis for customs duties, taxes and other charges related to imports and exports.

FIHO said it will now begin to communicate the recommendations to national and international policymakers.

“With this new position on terminology, major global actors of the hemp sector show their capacity to work together and speak with one voice. We now expect policymakers to embrace this position and apply common terminology in all regions and countries of the world,” said Daniel Kruse, Vice Chairman of the FIHO board of directors who is also president of the European Industrial Hemp Association.

FIHO was formed last year by a group of 20 global hemp organizations representing 50 countries to address key issues that affect the industry worldwide, and to interface with relevant international bodies such as the United Nations (UN) Committee on Narcotic Drugs, the World Health Organization, the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, and the UN’s Food & Agriculture Organization.

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