A leading producer of industrial hemp in the UK is calling for an end to the countries hemp licensing regime, and for farmers to take direct action to grow hemp without a licence. The call comes as Hempen had their latest licence to grow industrial hemp rejected again, despite following all the Home Office guidance since being forced to destroy £200,000 of hemp crops in 2019.
Hemp is often cited as an environmental wonder crop that can save the planet from climate change, soil depletion and replace fish and meat consumption, whilst providing a boost in new green jobs for the UK. However, the licenses to grow hemp are granted by the UK home office on an individual basis. Farmers have been reportedly refused a license for trivial matters, such as fields being too close to public footpaths or roads. License applications are often decided too late for farmers to get crops in the field, making applications too risky to pursue.
The UK market for hemp and CBD is one of the biggest in the world with a consumer market estimated to be worth £690 million in 2021. Despite this, most of the countries products are imported from Europe, North America or China while British farmers are being penalised by their own government.
Hempen is calling for growers large and small to grow hemp without regard for the Home Office in a campaign of mass civil disobedience against the licensing regime. Two years ago, the World Health Organisation recommended that the UN end the scheduling of industrial hemp as an internationally controlled substance as it posed no public health risk. Furthermore under Article 28(2) of the UN’s 1961 Single Convention on Narcotics the whole plant is fully exempted from all the provisions, when used for “industrial” and/or “horticultural” purposes. As such hemp is not a controlled substance under international law. The UK is a signatory of this convention and yet still classifies industrial hemp as illegal cannabis.
Hempen’s Co-Founder Patrick Gillett said: “The UK’s unfair licensing regime has no obvious public benefit and is stifling this emergent green industry at a time when the UK desperately needs jobs which care for our communities and the planet.”
He added “If the government won’t get out of the way, then it’s time farmers take direct action to grow this wonder plant without their permission. Hempen needs a bigger supply of organic hemp than we can currently source from farmers who have managed to jump through all the government hoops. There is more demand for organic UK hemp than the Home Office has licensed. When it comes to CBD in particular we’re forced to rely on imports.”