EU After the Coronavirus, EIHA’s Hemp Manifesto

Today’s environmental and health catastrophes are the price the world is paying for the negative externalities deriving from global economic growth based on individualism, greed, and disrespect, says the European Industrial Hemp Association (EIHA) in the introduction of their Hemp Manifesto, published ahead of 50th anniversary of the Earth Day.

Most of the threats we are now compelled to address are a direct consequence of human intervention, and the change of mindset now needs to be translated into concrete proposals and decisive actions, they point out.

In its Hemp Manifesto, the EIHA highlights the huge potential of the European hemp sector in speeding up the transition towards a zero-emission bio-based and sustainable economy, in line with the European Green Deal.

EIHA proposed ten points of action for the European agricultural sector after the coronavirus pandemic.

EIHA’S PROPOSALS:

1. Public policies should promote hemp use in food, feed, and manufactured products and finance the development of sustainable value chains.

  • Member States should use the possibility to allocate part of the direct payment envelope for sectorial interventions aimed at fostering hemp production and transformation.
  • Hemp operators should be allowed to register protected designations of origin and protected geographical indications (GIs).

2. The contribution to the environment of the hemp plant should be recognized and the use of hemp for carbon farming encouraged.

  • The EU Legislator should envisage a simplification of the new greening measures (GAEC) for hemp growers, for example excluding hemp from the obligation of having non-productive areas.
  • Hemp farmers should receive compensation for the positive environmental externalities, possibly within the existing or a new emissions trading scheme.
  • In order to leverage investments, incentives should be granted to companies developing or implementing clean technologies and products.

3. Member States should not apply the drug control legislation to hemp and its derived products, as long as the limits established for THC content are respected.

  • Industrial hemp products are not drugs (they do not have the potential to relieve pain and suffering) nor narcotics (there can be no misuse, abuse, or dependence). Therefore, and reflecting, in particular, the spirit and objectives set out in the UN Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs, hemp, and its derivatives should be considered outside the scope of international drug controls.

4. The maximum THC level allowed on the field should be restored to 0.3%.

  • This would allow the sector to align with international standards and start breeding new and more adapted varieties to satisfy farmers’ practices and consumers’ trends.

5. Operators should be allowed to harvest, produce from all parts of the plant – including flowers and leaves – and market any kind of product, whilst maintaining compliance with the THC content limits.

  • The real added value of hemp is the possibility to use the whole plant; however, some EU countries still forbid the use and marketing of leaves and flowers. Giving operators the possibility to market all parts of the plant would reduce waste and maximize the profitability of the crop. This would result in higher incomes for farmers and other operators along the value chain.

6. Hemp and hemp preparations containing a naturally occurring cannabinoid content should not be considered as a novel food.

  • Historical records show that naturally rich in CBD/cannabinoids hemp, flowers, leaves, and hemp extracts were widely consumed before 1997. Hemp has always been an integral part of the human diet.
  • There is no health risk and hence no ‘health-based’ justification for reducing EU consumers’ access to hemp products.

7. Reasonable guidance values for THC in food and feed should be established.

  • The risk evaluation by the European Food Safety Agency (EFSA) and by the German Federal Institute for risk assessment (BfR) on THC intake through hemp containing foods do not meet scientific standards. The current EFSA recommendation and BfR guidance values for THC in food are outdated, unnecessarily strict, and should be urgently revised based on sound scientific evaluation. This new evaluation should be based on scientifically developed values from renowned markets (e.g. Canada, USA, Switzerland), and will create fair competitive opportunities for the European hemp industry.
  • An EU approach should be established in order to harmonize national limits and align them to the latest international standards and scientific research studies.

8. All hemp-derived raw materials should be permitted as ingredients for cosmetics.

  • The EU Commission considers some hemp-derived products used in cosmetics as falling under narcotic control measures. On the basis that hemp is not a narcotic, the Cosmetics Ingredients Database should be changed accordingly.
  • There is no reason whatsoever to limit natural cannabinoids in cosmetics use while authorizing synthetic cannabidiol. Clearly, no health risk derives from the use of these ingredients, be they natural or synthetic.

9. The EU should value and promote the use of hemp fibers for the production of short and long fiber for textiles and favor the establishment of sustainable value chains.

  • In the aftermath of WWII, European countries massively replaced the use of natural fibers with more affordable synthetic carbon-based fibers. Since then, almost all hemp fiber processing facilities were shut down. There is an urgent need to rebuild the value chain in Europe and avoid delocalization.
  • The first transformation (scutching and carding) of the fiber should be incentivized, through specific financial aids, and operators should be granted access to professional training.
  • The explicit objectives of R&D policy should guide the genetic improvement for the specific production of hemp for textile fiber, the technical aspect of production lines, and yarn quality.

10. The use of hemp-based construction and other materials should be incentivized both in public and private sectors, with clear goals for the total or partial substitution of other less sustainable alternatives.

  • The EU should impose stricter requirements in public procurement and set ambitious goals for achieving zero-emissions in the EU and National Administrations.
  • Consumers and operators should receive clear economic benefits from the use of such commodities, such as administrative facilitations, purchasing incentives, or other.
Reviewed by Sasha Bajilo, founder of ILESOL Pharmaceuticals, an industrial scale producer of CBD products and formulations. Expert on Hemp/Cannabis policy, member of the Croatian Ministry of Health regulatory commission for medical cannabis.