THC in Europe now authorized up to 0,3%
The European Parliament voted in favor of increasing the level of THC allowed for industrial hemp. In the field, the rate goes from 0,2% to 0,3%. This represents a critical step in the recovery process for hemp in Europe
The proposal, long championed by the European Industrial Hemp Association (EIHA), has been included in the reform of the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) adopted by Parliament on 23 October 2020.
“This is a historic moment for our industry, for our farmers, for a green future and for all Europeans,” said EIHA President Daniel Kruse. “Finally, the EU is once again on a par with the global industrial hemp sector”.
The adoption finalizes a formal parliamentary position that will be used in negotiations with the European Council and the European Commission at the tripartite meetings that are part of the process of adopting acts in the EU.
Parliament also voted in favor of including hemp in the list of products that can be regulated by marketing standards. This step aims to improve the economic conditions of production and marketing as well as the quality of agricultural products. The EIHA had also been pushing for this change, which Kruse said "will give us a chance to gain momentum and catch up with the world."
These rules include a wide range of standards concerning in particular technical definitions: labeling, packaging, substances and methods used in production, type and location of cultivation, and other aspects of the hemp value chain.
In 1984, for the first time, European-specific THC limit values for industrial hemp were set at 0,5%. This limit was then reduced to 0,3% on the basis of a standard established in the 70s by the International Association for Plant Taxonomy (IAPT) and on the basis of the work of American plant scientists Ernest Small and Arthur Cronquist. Their work for the IAPT set 0,3% THC (dry weight) as the line between cannabis sativa (“hemp”) and cannabis indica (“marijuana”).
In 1999, the European Union further reduced the amount of THC allowed for hemp to 0,2% in a misguided effort to prevent the cultivation of marijuana in industrial hemp fields.
The EIHA has always maintained that raising the THC limit to 0,3% would not have a noticeable effect on illicit cannabis production. Repeatedly citing studies that have proven that there is no greater safety risk in hemp containing 0,3% than in hemp containing 0,2% THC. With the retention of this limit, Europe found itself increasingly at a disadvantage as hemp legalization spread globally and most countries adopted the 0,3% THC standard.
Less stress at 0.3%
The 0,2% THC barrier has proven to be a specific barrier for CBD producers. The THC content of hemp increases in proportion to that of CBD. Consequently, European scientists and researchers were therefore not encouraged to develop a new strain with a variable ratio. Depending on the strain, cannabis can present variable levels of CBD and THC. Thus, the combination of the two molecules with different doses can have different effects.
Unfortunately, it takes time to develop stable genetics. As people try to produce more cannabinoids, more CBD, the 0.2% THC level limit has been blocking it so far.
Today, high-yielding seed varieties and strains with high CBD content are in great demand. These strains lack significant THC, but can still go over the 0,2% limit. At the same time, several varieties of high-yielding hemp seeds, especially from Eastern Europe, have not been viable for agriculture and production under the constraint of 0,2% THC.
In the US, hemp farmers say factors beyond their control lead to higher test results, and many are fighting against regulations and supporting increasing the THC limit for hemp to 1% THC .