By Sanford Stein
Hemp laws and regulations in Europe remain uncertain and variable. Much as in the USA, various jurisdictions apply different standards to the cultivation and use of industrial hemp.
The European Union recognizes industrial hemp as the plant Cannabis Sativa L with a THC content of 0.2% or less and there is strong support to increase that limit to 0.3%. While the increase is small, 0.3% is defaulting to the world standard even as some active groups and some countries, notably in Switzerland, a non-EU member, are permitting much higher THC content for Industrial hemp.
Small change isn’t small
Arguably the small change isn’t small at all; it would allow European hemp cultivators and processors to compete with the USA and Canada more easily and there are a variety of products and foods that are more easily obtained with the higher THC content.
Importantly, the THC levels don’t matter much for industrial uses of hemp such as textiles, building materials or plastics, so why be so restrictive especially in the face of a developing world standard that is different?
Finally, the limitation on strains and varieties at 0.2% devalues genetics and increases the use of pesticides. It is also claimed that the influence of climate change makes it more difficult to grow at 0.2% THC in hotter conditions. Since no one is getting high at 0.3% THC, what is the reason to limit European farmers?
These are some of the arguments that might be pressed forward in persuading officials to relax current restrictions.
All of that said, laws and regulations are hard to change. As with any laws, the movement to legal reform starts with active intervention in the legislative and regulatory process. Interest groups and industry associations must first educate the public about the benefits, economically and commercially, to create a desire for legislative change. Rarely do politicians act without a push from the public they represent.
Get a ‘champion’
Next, a governmental “champion” should be identified – someone inside the government who is skilled in legislative procedure and can make the case for the legislative or regulatory change.
A key question facing legislative reform in Europe is whether to attempt a change at the EU level or at the individual member countries and non–member countries. As with the USA, but unlike Canada, Europe remains a place with multiple jurisdictions and a difficult international assembly. The variety of interests and attitudes in various member countries make an omnibus EU standard difficult to change.
As with the USA, where the individual states have created their own sets of cannabis laws, European nations might consider “going it alone” when it comes to hemp regulations. Interestingly, however, even in the USA industrial hemp, defined as Cannabis Sativa L with a THC content of 0.3% or less on a dry weight basis, is now legal nationwide.
That said, the U.S. Department of Agriculture has not yet entered regulations’ to implement that standard and the US Food and Drug Admiration has not yet issued regulations on use of hemp products in food and beverages. Even so, the U.S. hemp industry is flourishing and this helps argue for a European EU standard consistent with that of North America.
Regardless of how European industry leaders approach this, it is key that an organized lobbying effort be in front of the legislative reform. Once key members of the public are engaged, legislative urgency must be applied and proposed reforms introduced into the governing legislative bodies. Commercial interests, farmers, health care and retail product manufacturers must assist and make the case for reform.
Also, in a world of COVID-19, proven products that can help national economies need fewer – not more – regulatory restrictions. That said, the health benefits of Hemp derived CBD still engender debate so best not to engage too heavily on that topic unless it is raised by regulators. Then, of course, the documentation is clear that CBD is helpful and not harmful to a variety of ailments, including anxiety, pain management etc. Nevertheless, the case for industrial hemp is best made as favorable to agriculture and industry. This is how it became legal in the USA.
There is no real excuse not to raise the European standard to 0.3% and much to lose if it stays at 0.2%. The time to act is now.
American lawyer Sanford Stein is a leading authority in the regulated cannabis industry with emphasis in government regulations, legislation and business opportunities. He has legislative experience at every level of government, and has ppeared as lead counsel before at the United States Supreme Court. He is the founder of Cannabis Law LLC.