The U.K. Home Office has moved to enforce its strict rules on cannabis cultivation by withdrawing the license of an organic Oxfordshire farm.
Hempen says it has now been forced to destroy its 40 acres of hemp costing the business over £200,000 in lost revenues. In 2016, it was granted a three-year license by the U.K. Home Office to grow hemp, allowing it to use the stalk and seeds, but having to destroy the flowers and leaves.
‘Illegal’ U.K. CBD Trading
Hempen says that in its annual declaration to the Home Office it informed it, that it HAD been illegally using the leaves and flowers to make CBD for sale into the U.K market.
Ali Silk, head of marketing at Hempen, told CBD Testers: “Each year we were explicit to the Home Office about what we were doing, but had received no communication to say it was a problem. We have been open, throughout and thought it was okay to continue.”
However, with the changing of the law to allow for medical cannabis in the U.K., last November, and the surge in the popularity of CBD in the U.K., and beyond, things seem to have changed.
Late last year, the Home Office reminded licence holders, such as Hempen, that they could only use the seed and fiber. Ms Silk continued: “We told the Home Office we were happy to do that, and on that basis we went ahead and planted our crops, earlier this year.
“But, we have now been informed that we will not be receiving the licence. This has been a real shock, as we were fully-prepared to comply with Home Office rules.”
Home Office Gets Tough
Ms Silk believes the Home Office’s punitive action is the result of its need to ensure the public sees it enforcing the regulations, with cannabis and CBD now featuring prominently in the U.K. public debate.
She continued: “The government is much more aware of cannabinoids and the business that is growing around it. And, while its working out how best to legislate the CBD industry, it does not want flowers finding their way on to the black market.”
CBD was a large part of the Hempen’s revenues, although it has subsequently sourced new supplies from Europe to allow it to continue to make and supply its CBD range and it hopes it can continue to employ its 12 staff.
Hempen co-founder Patrick Gillett believes the U.K. government should move the responsibility of regulating farmers over to the Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs and ‘legislate to stop CBD spending being sent abroad’.
Barmy Rules Hurt U.K Economy
Ms Silk added: “It’s barmy that CBD is legal and can be imported into the U.K. but farmers cannot grow it for that purpose meaning all the revenue is going overseas to Europe and the U.S.
“The leaves and flowers are the most valuable part of crop, and what people want. A Home Office spokesperson told CBD Testers: “We do not routinely comment on individual licences.”
Hempen says it will continue to work with the Home Office on the appeals process, in the hopes of having its licence reinstated. A second, more difficult to secure and costly licence, is required from the Home Office to cultivate cannabis for CBD extraction and medical cannabis use.
“This is a possible route for CBD producers in the UK, but we have no clarity on how successful an application of this nature would be, and it takes investment in order to meet the criteria required to hold a high-THC licence,” added Ms Silk.