900 hectares – that’s the total estimated hemp farmland across the United Kingdom. Quite a low figure, considering that Europe has over 33,000 hectares of hemp farmland – and 14,500 hectares is in France alone.
So, why does the U.K. – a global economic powerhouse – only have a small share of the European hemp marketplace? Can this change? Is it legal to grow hemp in the U.K.?
To answer all these questions, here’s a detailed guideline on the legal framework of growing hemp in the U.K.
Can You Legally Grow Hemp in the U.K.?
Yes, growing hemp is legal in the U.K. However, certain conditions must be met to be an eligible hemp grower, including:
You must acquire a hemp cultivation license to grow hemp in the U.K. Only applicants with commercial interests are eligible for the license. This means that you can’t legally grow hemp in your backyard garden for your personal use. Additionally, you can’t start cultivating the crop until the licensing has been officialized.
Another condition that commercial growers have to meet is to maintain the tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) content in their hemp crops at 0.2% or less. THC is the psychoactive compound in cannabis plants that causes the euphoric sensation – it’s the reason why cannabis is classified as a drug.
Legal Requirements for Hemp Cultivation in the U.K.
If you’re looking to become a legitimate hemp growing business in the U.K., you’ll first need to prove that the hemp variety you intend to grow on your farmland meets the THC-content cap of 0.2%.
The seed type must also be E.U.-approved. Other pre-licensing requirements include a Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) check and payment of the licensing fee of about £580.
Here’s are the steps of obtaining a hemp growing license in the U.K.:
Submit an Online Application Form
Simply fill and submit your online application form which is available on the government’s official website.
Review of Application by the Home Office
The Home Office will reach out to you for details about the hemp crop you intend to grow, your field location, the acreage/hectarage, the crop’s THC-content levels, and a farm map with a location pin.
After confirming that your hemp variety meets the Home Office’s requirements and that the DBS check is complete, you’ll get the hemp growing license. It is as simple as that.
How to Maintain Your Hemp Growing License in the U.K.
A newly licensed hemp grower in the U.K. is still subject to further scrutiny. These include restrictions on where the crop can be cultivated, requirements to inform local authorities about the existence and location of your hemp farm, renewal of licensing at £326 every growing season, as well as requirements to sensitively screen the crop so that it isn’t viewable to the general public.
The Home Office usually does a random selection of about 10% of the license holders for compliance checks each growing season. This is done to ensure that farmers are adhering to the permit conditions and aren’t harvesting or selling controlled hemp plant parts like the leaves and flower buds. Permit holders that are selected for compliance visits are usually required to pay a renewal fee of £1371 instead of the regular £326.
Another restriction (which significantly hampers the economic viability of the industrial hemp sector in the U.K.) is that licensed hemp growers can only harvest and sell the plant’s seeds and stalks. These should only be used for industrial purposes in the production of various hemp products like hemp seed oil, rope fiber, cosmetic products, and textiles.
So, is hemp flower legal in the U.K.?
Hemp’s biggest strength lies in these CBD-rich flower buds. CBD has been scientifically proven to possess numerous therapeutic and nutritional benefits. In the U.K., hemp farmers are required to destroy the CBD-rich flowers during harvest and only depend on proceeds from selling the CBD-free seeds and stalks.
Due to these extremely limiting legislations, hemp farming in the U.K. still has a long way to go to attain its full economic potential.
The Current State of Hemp Farming in the U.K.
Recently, there have been cases of hemp companies getting their hemp growing licenses revoked and being forced to destroy hundreds of thousands worth of hemp harvest. This is largely due to “grey areas” within the U.K.’s legal framework for hemp growing.
This has put off potential investors from getting into the business. Apart from meeting the 0.2% THC-concentration cap, growers also have to meet a requirement of 1-milligram of THC per container. The latter part of the THC-content requirement is still unknown to many licensed growers.
What’s more – the requirement to get rid of controlled parts of the plant before sale severely limits the crop’s economic prospects, consequently putting off more potential investors with an interest in growing hemp for its controlled parts: the CBD-rich flowers and leaves.
According to the British Hemp Alliance, these confusing and limiting government legislations are dragging the country’s hemp farming industry from realizing its true financial viability.
Currently, the country is losing massive figures in terms of “lost taxes” as daring hemp growers continue to sell CBD hemp flowers in black markets. To avoid these losses and create a win-win situation for all stakeholders, the U.K. government should consider legalizing the entire hemp crop.
What is The Future of Hemp Growing in the U.K.?
With all the nutritional and environmental benefits of hemp, it’s no doubt that this miracle plant is a crucial factor in the development and sustainability of our future. But with the stringent measures put in place by the government, does the U.K. have a future with hemp growing?
The hemp crop has so much potential to quickly become a profitable commercial crop, especially with its high demand. When done right, the industry can attract a lot of investment and significantly boost the economy of the country. Fortunately, more and more lobby groups are protesting the choking hemp legislation for a better future. We can only hope for the best.
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