Licensing meltdown in Portugal angers small farmers

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Portuguese hemp cooperative LUSICANNA has issued a blistering report over governmental chaos that forced farmers to cancel their hemp crops this year. 

The report details a bureaucratic meltdown blow-by-blow, and was accompanied by results of a survey among 29 small farmers who expressed overwhelming dissatisfaction with the government’s handling of 2019 hemp licensing.

Interpreting things

Noting, “at this point the situation is open to interpretation,” LUSICANNA suggested “a benign” reason for government inaction “would be that the Secretary of State of Agriculture, Luís Medeiros Vieira, was sick for two months during the spring.” LUSICANNA said simple government incompetence at Portugal’s Ministry of Agriculture could be a contributing factor in such a scenario. 

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“None of that would excuse their condescending behavior towards the hemp farmers and their plight,” LUSICANNA said, “but it would at least be understandable.”

However, the group also hinted at a more nefarious scenario: “Since medical cannabis companies have been heavily favored by the Portuguese government, it is possible that they managed to influence the bureaucracy to block hemp.”

Very unhappy farmers

The problem started for hemp farmers in Portugal when the Ministry of Agriculture issued a clarification in January 2019 making all hemp related authorizations subject to review by INFARMED, the Portuguese Health Regulator that has authority over pharmaceutical products and controlled substances.

All 29 small hemp farmers surveyed by LUSICANNA said the government is not making rules for hemp clear, and is giving them virtually no support in their efforts to farm the crop. The median farm represented in the survey was 2 hectares (about 5 acres). 

All said “no” when asked if the government clearly communicated the rules relevant to the 2019 growing season.” They also unanimously answered “no” when asked if the government supports the efforts of hemp farmers generally.

Support for legal action

Seventy-seven percent of respondents said they would participate in a lawsuit over lost business in 2019, according to the LUSICANNA survey. 

Lusicanna said legal counsel has advised such a lawsuit would have good chances at the EU level.

This year’s failed crop means losses of €30,000 per hectare, LUSICANNA estimated, and inhibits business development among small farmers. The chaos also holds back hemp research, and damages Portugal’s international reputation in the industry, the group also noted.

“Whether the hemp businesses here in Portugal can catch up with the rapid market developments if given authorization in 2020 remains an open question, as investors’ doubts mount for obvious reasons,” LUSICANNA said.

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