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Changes To Industrial Hemp Licensing Coming To The UK

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The United Kingdom’s hemp industry is set to undergo some changes, with the UK government recently announcing changes to the industrial hemp licensing process. The changes are being touted as supporting “regulated farmers to grow hemp” and encouraging investment in the UK’s emerging hemp industry.

From a scientific standpoint, hemp is cannabis. However, many governments around the world have created laws that distinguish hemp from non-hemp cannabis, with THC content being the distinguishing feature. In the UK for instance, cannabis harvests that contain .2% or lower THC content is considered to be hemp. Above the .2% THC threshold is non-hemp.

“Under the planned changes, licence holders will be able to grow hemp anywhere on a licensed farm and the maximum period for a licence will be extended from three to six years, subject to compliance with the terms of the licence.” the United Kingdom’s government stated on its website announcing the changes.

The changes will go into effect in 2025, in time for the hemp planting season. The UK government has also asked the Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs to advise on whether the threshold for permissible THC levels in industrial hemp could be raised to 0.3%. The United States uses a .3% threshold, whereas many European nations have thresholds as high as 1% THC content.

“This government will always seek to reduce unnecessary regulatory burdens placed on businesses so that they can flourish and grow.” stated Chris Philp, Minister for Crime and Policing about the changes. “The changes outlined today will help farmers and manufacturers in the UK to fully realise the economic potential offered through the safe and legal cultivation of hemp.”

“Industrial hemp has huge potential across the UK to unlock new revenue streams, expand our bioeconomy without permanently removing land from food production, and bring wider environmental benefits.” stated UK Farming Minister Mark Spencer.

“The licensing changes announced today recognise industrial hemp as a field-grown agricultural crop and will enable more farmers to add hemp to their crop rotations, sequester carbon, and sell their harvest to the textile and construction industries.” he also stated.

Non-hemp cannabis is still prohibited in the United Kingdom for recreational use and is currently classified as a Class B controlled drug under Part 2 of Schedule 2 in the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971. Cannabis possession can result in a maximum sentence of up to 5 years imprisonment, a fine, or both in the UK. Illegally distributing cannabis carries a maximum sentence of up to 14 years imprisonment, a fine, or both.

The number of hemp licenses in the United Kingdom has increased from six in 2013 to 136 in 2023. A first-time hemp license in the UK costs £580, and the license is valid for three growing seasons. Growers who apply for subsequent licenses currently pay £326, or less than £109 per year.

The global hemp fiber market revenue alone was estimated to be worth $7.55 billion in 2022 and is anticipated to grow to $73.55 billion by 2030.

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