HEMP, The Elephant in the Room

Currently, most of cannabis industry is concerned with cannabinoids. This is not surprising considering the UK’s CBD industry has grown exponentially over the past few years to become the largest in Europe. There are now approx. 1.2 million users in the UK (7 million throughout Europe) and at only 2% of the UK population, this number is set to increase dramatically over the coming years as awareness increases.

Even though the US is now poised to accelerate full throttle, following the 2018 Farm Bill being passed to legalise not just the growing of hemp but also the production of CBD products across all states, the UK and Europe are in danger of being left behind as political pressure builds to try and outlaw cannabinoid extracts under the guise of European safety laws and out-dated drug scheduling.

What’s worse is that we rely completely on imports. Imports from outside of the European Union are already high risk as Border Force intercept hemp related products (especially from the States). Even terpenes and hemp seed are sometimes held.

Meanwhile, the Home Office continue to reject license applications for anything expect the stalk and seed as they still consider the whole flowers to be dangerous narcotics; even the leaves and roots are considered Class B controlled substances if grown in the UK.

Unfortunately, the Governmental view and even that of the CBD industry reflects the powerful ‘Reefer Madness’ propaganda of the 1930’s which suggests that cannabis was prohibited due to the psychoactive effects of THC.

We all know that this propaganda was based on a complete load of codswallop, however it seems that most of us are blind to the elephant in the room.

Marijuana has been the main focus of legislation for almost the past century, but hemp is the true elephant in the room.

Hemp is thought to be one of the oldest agricultural crops (12,000 years) and during the reign of King Henry VIII and Elizabeth I, hemp had to be grown in the UK by law to serve the needs of the Royal Navy.

Cannabis is one of the oldest and most widely used medicines in history. Prior to 1937 there were over 2000 Western medicines containing cannabis extracts. Cannabis was deleted from Pharmacopeia’s at this time. Whole plant extracts soon became combinations of synthetic compounds which could be patented.

Until the late 1800’s approx. 90% of paper was made from hemp. By the 1930’s, hemp was poised to revolutionise the automotive, plastics (cellophane was originally made from hemp) and textiles industries.

The diesel engine was designed to run on plant oil, cellulose-based ethanol fuel can replace petrol, plastics, paper, clothing could all be produced ethically and responsibly without causing damage to the environment and hemp is the most viable candidate.

Soon we will have solar panels, batteries and super-capacitors all made from hemp which could abolish the need for a National grid; there is now even an aeroplane made from hemp composite and powered by hemp.

We can build non-toxic, carbon negative housing out of hempcrete which can save 40% on heating bills throughout the lifetime of the building and even wood composites to replace tree wood.

In short, cannabis was prohibited not for its psychoactive properties but because it was the main competitor to big corporations; even more so today.

All of these amazing end-uses from hemp will not only gain huge public support, it will also help the Government to meet their obligations (all relating to the environment and carbon offsetting). Individuals are panicking about carbon obligations because they are worried that they are going to lose their quality of life by being forced to drastically change their lifestyles. It is corporations and business that need to change and hemp is the answer.

This multi-pronged approach will ensure the future and growth of our industry to the point that hemp will become a major commodity for our entire economy.

Could we soon be farming hemp for CBD production in the UK?

Although the EU approved hemp varieties are far from suitable for CBD production due to the lack of breeding and the suffocating 0.2% THC cap, European farmers can still make as much as 33,000 Euros per hectare with varieties which reach between 1-3% CBD.

HempTank has received an influx of pleas from UK farmers to place pressure on the Home Office to abandon the out-dated and non-sensical limitations of the 1971/2002 MODA which still classifies the flowers and leaves of the hemp plant as Class B controlled substances.

There are 3 key areas which will lead to cannabinoid production in the UK:

  • On the 24th January 2019, WHO’s assessment of Cannabis sativa products included the recommendation that all CBD products containing less than 0.2% THC will be removed from any drug scheduling. We expect the UN to vote on this in March 2020.
  • On the 8th April 2019, the European Parliament (AGRI Committee) voted to increase levels to 0.3% THC to keep in line with the US and Australia. This is expected to come into force no later than January 2021 and will open the door for new cultivars with higher CBD levels.
  • HempTank’s policy team are developing white papers and developing a lobby strategy to push the Home Office to adopt the guidance from WHO and support the UK’s farming community post-Brexit.

Could hemp be a catalyst for the UK Government to reach their environmental obligations?

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report in 2018 recommended that we have 12 years to reach net zero carbon emissions (globally) in order to avoid catastrophic climate change. Over the past 30 years, carbon emissions have doubled, leading us to a cliff edge of ecological breakdown. This was highlighted this Spring by ‘Extinction Rebellion’, leading to mass public awareness and the international action has kickstarted talks with Government.

Guy Coxall, Chairman of HempTank, gave two talks in London on the 16th April to highlight hemp as a solution to environmental challenges.

Hemp breathes in more than 4 times carbon dioxide than that of trees and just one hectare, offsets a year’s carbon from 2 cars. Around 45% of the UK’s carbon emissions are from the construction industry. Hemp can create a range of sustainable building materials to construct carbon negative buildings.

HempTank, in collaboration with Hemptation (www.hemptation.me) are working to implement the infrastructure for the UK’s re-emergence of the hemp industry, including:

  • A hemp housing development with 400-700 carbon negative houses.
  • Farming Co-operatives to purchase specialised harvesting equipment.
  • New processing facilities with the ability to process all parts of the plant.
  • The HempChar soil restoration project to replenish the lost carbon from soils, improve soil structure and to protect future food security.
  • The feasibility of developing manufacturing plants for textiles, paper, bio-plastics, bio-fuels and bio-energy capture and storage.

Is there a perfect storm brewing for the UK hemp industry?

With Brexit around the corner, farmers looking to diversify, soil erosion and depletion inevitably leading to famine, the growing possibility of the Government being sued for ecocide, mass civil disobedience, children bunking off school and the collapse of not just the NHS but the ecosystem as a whole; times are looking pretty bleak.

It’s time for the Government to act. Current policies are counter productive and out-dated. Hemp is a multi-functional agricultural crop which has the potential to support our farming communities, our economy, create jobs, improve our health, our soils and the environment in general.

During the rebellious Spring events in London, it became clear that the concept of non-violent civil disobedience was working. As I watched peaceful protesters from all walks of life (including teachers, doctors, climate scientists and professors) being carried off by bemused Police Officers while they calmly explained that they were doing this for their children and grandchildren, the true enormity and importance of their actions was evident.

Over 1,000 people were willingly arrested that week and that was just the beginning of an ongoing campaign. Over 250,000 UK residents signed up in one week and there are now XR groups found in virtually every town and city across the country. Following sir David Attenborough’s Climate Change Truth programme on BBC, there is massive support for ways to reduce carbon emissions.

The hemp industry could reduce UK carbon emissions by up to 80% with the right technology and infrastructure. There is no other plant with such huge potential, but we need your support to make this a reality.

HempTank is the UK’s think tank for hemp education and policy development. Please support us to support your industry by visiting the support page www.hemptank.co.uk