Lithuanian hemp growers say new version of Baltic hemp law is missed opportunity to give industry a new high
Full legalization of industrial hemp could boost Lithuanian industry's turnover to 200 million euros, its supporters say.
Lithuania was the second largest producer of hemp in the European Union in 2019, with 9182 hectares cultivated. Industry is booming in the EU, with the cultivated area soaring to 56196 hectares in 2019, with production rising 62% to 152820 tonnes.
Hemp can be used in textiles, food and feed, construction, paper, cosmetics and health products, as well as in biofuels. According to the EU, growing hemp is also beneficial for carbon storage, enabling crop rotation cycles, preventing soil erosion and encouraging biodiversity.
However, the Liberal-Conservative government has so far failed to pass a set of sub-laws from the revised version of the 2013 law that comes into force on November 1, which are needed to boost production and sale of food, cosmetics, pet food and other hemp fiber products in the country.
Hemp growers say the law will fail to stem the collapse in the cultivation of the plant, whose production fell from 9182 hectares in 2019 to 4780 hectares this year, as rising costs make it less and less cultivated. less profitable.
“I quit my hemp business. It was not profitable, ”said bne IntelliNews Marius Banaitis, an industrial hemp farmer from the Vilnius region. “It required too many resources in terms of infrastructure - just the dryer costs an arm and a leg, the whole process requires many hands. It was too much for me alone ”.
He says he has only cultivated the plant on two hectares in recent years, when its hemp area was once much larger.
On his website, which will be taken offline, he praised the merits of his cannabis, which gave off a particularly pleasant smell and contained a high level (2%) of cannabinoids (CBD), believed to have beneficial properties for health, while respecting the legal rate of 0,2% of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) in its finished products. A higher THC level would classify hemp as cannabis, which remains illegal in Lithuania.
“The interest in my products was quite high. Many ordered fresh and dried hemp. I was selling CBD extracts and hemp seeds for € 7 per pack, which still wasn't enough to make ends meet, ”he added.
Kestutis, another hemp farmer in Ukmerges district in central Lithuania, told bn IntelliNews that he regrets that the country's authorities are "horribly behind" in adopting the sub. -laws.
“Growing hemp in such uncertainty makes no sense. The deadline of November 1 is fast approaching and there is no clarity, ”complains the farmer.
According to him, Lithuanians are quite "fond" of hemp products, with hemp oil, hemp seeds and hemp tea being the top three items on sale. Previously, he cultivated hemp on 30 hectares, but today the exploitation has decreased.
“The expenses related to the operation of the hemp farm are too high,” he said.
Looking for a ray of hope
Rimantas Ciutas, director of the Lithuanian Association of Hemp Producers, Processors and Commercial Innovators (KAPVIA), says industrial hemp production looks like an American roller coaster, with "many areas of turmoil".
"The drop in production shows that from a legislative point of view, the expectations of modification on hemp have not been fulfilled in a favorable way and to add fuel to the fire, an excess of biomass of cannabis, used for pharmaceutical production. and cosmetics as well as derivatives such as drinks and edibles, have grown across Europe over the past three years ”. This is actually the time it took for Lithuania to try to pass the changes in the law, he said.
However, Mr Ciutas said there might be a "silver lining" in the draft industrial hemp bill, which the European Commission has repeatedly called for, in order to bring Lithuanian legislation into line with that of the European Union.
"Once the legislative package is in place and starts working, the whole sector will be stimulated - growers will be able to process the whole plant and all production (of the plant) will be legal if the THC concentration does not exceed 0,2. , XNUMX% in the final product ”, he underlined. Until the enactment of the law, only the stems and seeds of hemp could be used in the country.
The Lithuanian Ministry of Agriculture told bne IntelliNews that the current national hemp legislation, even with updates, is still not fully in line with EU hemp legislation. For example, Lithuania set a lower allowable THC level for products produced by domestic hemp growers and processors.
In addition, legislation authorizing the use of cannabis for medical purposes, approved in October 2018, has gone unheeded. Many doctors across the country are still prejudiced against cannabis, and so far, according to Julijanas Galisanskis, a senior health ministry specialist, there isn't a single tin can.