A new report from advocacy group Volteface released today aims to change the ‘draconian’ UK hemp legislation that forces British farmers to burn millions of pounds worth of CBD rich hemp each year.
The paper is backed by Conservative MP Crispin Blunt and outlines the economic and environmental benefits of embracing hemp farming in the UK. It promises that simple changes to legislation could boost the government’s promised green recovery and kick start an economic bounce back as the country emerges from Covid-19.
The CBD market is currently worth £300m, with estimates valuing the market at around £1bn by 2025, however, the vast majority of CBD on offer on the shelves of UK wellness shops is imported from Switzerland. Under current legislation, farmers are forced to burn up to 80% of hemp crops, including the flower, the most valuable and CBD-rich part of the plant. Hemp and extracted CBD are non-psychotropic, but the policy is tied up with costly and bureaucratic licencing which make the crop financially impossible to benefit from. CBD is available on the shelves of major retailers including Holland & Barrett and Boots, but farmers are unable to extract CBD from hemp flower due to a Home Office policy requiring its destruction, leaving the UK reliant on imports.
The report calls for a model which imitates Swiss policy where farmers can grow hemp crops containing up to 1% THC. It also suggests the licencing process is streamlined to allow for farmers to extract CBD from the whole hemp plant. At present, Home Office licences only currently permitting the extraction of CBD from stalks and seeds.
Paul North, Director of Volteface, said: “It is embarrassing that the UK has an industry which is currently worth £300 million, but British farmers are not benefiting from it. The CBD market must be embraced, and British cultivation would provide the UK a major growth industry to help the UK bounce back during the Covid recovery. Let’s back British farmers and make changes to this pointless, draconian situation.”
The report proposes a simple policy amendment, enacted by a letter from the relevant Secretary of State, which would ‘unlock the nascent hemp and CBD industry’ – a growth industry potentially worth billions of pounds to British farmers. Volteface highlights that encouraging British farmers to grow the niche crop would create a number of rural skilled and low-skilled jobs which would level up prosperity in rural communities – a pledge that the government is under pressure to deliver on.
In the last few weeks, DEFRA Minister Victoria Prentis has discussed solutions to hemp policy, whilst George Freeman MP has championed hemp reform and investment as part of the Taskforce for Innovation, Growth and Regulation.
Backing the report MP Crispin Blunt said “Her Majesty’s Government has asked the ACMD for policy recommendations on cannabinoids; shortcomings in current policy had been the result of gaps in cannabinoid-related knowledge. Such a gap in relation to hemp cultivation has been addressed with the publication of VolteFace’s “Pleasant Lands” report. People in the UK, as elsewhere, deserve safe access to first-rate CBD products. There is no reason why Britain should not produce them, to at least as high a standard as anywhere else. ”
Hemp cultivation has a rich history in the United Kingdom, Henry VIII famously enshrined hemp cultivation into law by forcing landowners to grow a quarter of an acre for every 60 acres of land owned. Hemp’s eco-credentials could als provide the government with a major boost to the green recovery pledged by Chancellor Rishi Sunak. Hemp is an alternative building material that can be used as a non-toxic insulator for building houses.
Recent estimates say that every house built with ‘hempcrete’ as opposed to traditional building materials would save around 55 tonnes of hemp per average size house built. Steve Barron, Owner of Margent Farm agrees, saying “At Margent Farm we’re raising awareness to show the benefits of growing hemp. Including building our own farmhouse from the crop’s fibres. Restricting its full potential makes it much less desirable for our farmers to grow one of the most environmentally friendly and versatile crops on the planet. Hemp can be used to strengthen our topsoil, to reduce plastics in our seas, to sequester an inordinate amount of carbon from the atmosphere, and provide nutrition for us all.
“Frustratingly current legislation allows us, under license, to grow hemp for seed or fibre but we must destroy our leaves and flowers and not process for valuable, in-demand CBD oil. Yet we can then purchase this CBD from Europe and beyond! The legislation is backward thinking and out-dated. It comes from a different time when fear and ignorance demonised all the strains of hemp. Hemp will save the fucking world. If we let it.”