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Hemp, The Myth and Now

by Serafim Kandylas

We are heading towards the fourth year of cannabis cultivation in our country. From 2016, when the CJMD was signed, which the Law 4139/2013 provided as a prerequisite for the start of the cultivation, to date, we have a significant increase in the acres grown. From 24 acres in 2016 we reached about 1000 in 2018, from Evros to Crete, with about 250 cultivation approvals and with the Finola, Futura 75 and Fedora 17 varieties to lead. Similarly, the varieties Zenit, Uso-31, CS, Kompolti, Carmagnola, Santhica 70, Tiborszallasi, KC Dora, Silvana, Fibrol, Felina 32 in a few acres, as a pilot.

However, the promising cannabis crop doesn’t have the expected response, that we, who fought for the implementation in our country of the European regulation on flax and hemp Sativa-L with a THC <0,2%, expected.

This has to do with the reluctance of the Ministry of Rural Development’s departments to support cannabis cultivation, because they are “cotton fanatics” and see cannabis as its competitor, but also they are bound to their prejudice from the years of slander and demonization of the plant. They did everything in their power, not only to slow it down, but also to prevent it.

Since the time when the political leadership (Ms. Stefanos Tzoumakas) had been asked by the Agricultural University and then the ΕΘΙΑΓΕ study, on the cultivation of flax and hemp in our country, they have been (since being filed in 2000) keeping it locked in the last drawer of their office. We have, thus, lost the opportunity to lead the emerging cannabis market.

After the change on the law in 2013 (with a Ministry of Justice bill), it took us 9 inquiries, towards the relevant ministries, to finally get signed three years later (April 2016). This has led to the withdrawal of investors such as Hamp-Flax, who invested 5 million EUR in Romania in 2015. Even now, that the issue of cannabis is a government option, they do not show the appropriate interest to promote its cultivation. Neither, a farmers’ information meeting at the regions that are suitable for cultivation, or a press conference to attract manufacturing investments, has been organized.

So far our country has been exploiting the inflorescence and the plant’s seed for a range of products that have to do with nutrition, well-being and cosmetology.

This is done for three reasons:

  • Easy manufacturing, with no need for a major investment
  • The discovery of the endocannabinoid system and the recognition of cannabidiol (CBD) therapeutic effects, which is at higher concentrations in Hemp.
  • There is great added value in products, resulting in a satisfactory income for small producers who process their own production.

Here, however, other problems have been created by other entities such as the State General Laboratory, which relying on a regulatory gap, does not allow the marketing of food products, food supplements and cosmetics derived from legitimate cannabis sativa L plants with THC <02%, while at the same time allows the import of such products. Let us recall here that the State General Laboratory has been leading the ban on the sale of cannabis products, as well as the decision to prosecute the owners of KANNABISHOP stores and confiscation of their merchandise at the interministerial meeting held in September 1998. Also, the prosecuting authorities destroy legitimate crops, perhaps due to the delayed transition from the repressive approach to the new data, but also arrests traders and consumers.

My arrest and charge for possession of drugs for personal use, because I had hemp flour and hemp soap in my baggage, had the effect of asking a question to the co-responsible ministries, for the solution of pending cases and so with Article 58 of Law 4554/2018 we had to adopt an amendment which reads as follows:

The first and second subparagraphs of paragraph 3, of Article 1, of Law 4139/2013 are replaced by the following:

«3. The above substances do not include the raw harvested products resulting from the cultivation of cannabis varieties of Cannabis Sativa-L, with a tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) content of up to 0,2%. Also, with the exception of baby foods, there are not included food, within the meaning of Article 2 of Regulation (EC) No 178/2002, cosmetics and dietary supplements containing tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), which will be defined with the corresponding decisions of the following paragraphs.

By a joint decision of the Ministers of Justice, Transparency and Human Rights and Rural Development and Food, the above limit is adjusted, setting the terms and conditions for the cultivation of cannabis varieties of Cannabis Sativa L, the compliance checks of the terms and conditions and all other relevant issues. The same Decision defines the food that may contain tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and the maximum permitted levels for them, food controls for compliance with the content limits and any related issues. By a joint decision of the Ministers for Justice, Transparency and Human Rights and Health, the cosmetic and dietary supplements containing tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and their maximum levels can be determined, cosmetic and dietary supplements checks for compliance with the content limits and each related issue “.

However, Joint Ministerial Decisions have not been signed. The Working Group on the definition of foods that may contain THCs and the definition of maximum levels for them (set up by the WMDCA) has a renewal for the delivery time of the conclusion for the end of December 2018.

On 26 November, the ΥΠΑΑΤ launched a public online consultation, on a draft amendment to the Cannabis Joint Ministerial Decision, which includes suspicion for growers, increased control mechanisms and endless bureaucracy.

All these, create problems in expanding hemp cultivation. The impact will be shown by the farmers’ willingness to deal with it in the new growing year.

The solution to these problems would be to find another word for industrial cannabis in our language. Something that works in other languages (English Hemp, Hanf in German, French Chanvre, Canamo in Italian, Canapa in Spanish, etc.), so that the plant will be discharged from the “myth” that follows it.

But what needs to be done NOW, is to make everyone understand that industrial cannabis and its products don’t (legally) belong to drugs in our country since 2013 and that it should be faced without prejudices, as is the case with other arable farming crops. Thus, hemp, which is a natural renewable resource and a plant of many and important uses, can help create new jobs in agriculture, industry, commerce, research and technology, boosting the local and national economy.

The Green Greeks Magazine

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