Swedish hemp stakeholders are aggressively resisting proposed regulatory updates that would restrict legal cannabis ingredients to only plant stems and seeds, and point to the destruction of the tops of valuable plants.
The draft rules, in a memo released late last year by the Ministry of Social Affairs, were prompted by increased cannabis-related workloads reported across a wide range of agencies, costing the government money. Customs officials, police, medical agencies, food, safety and agriculture agencies said the gray legal area surrounding cannabis is giving them headaches.
“Many Swedish authorities see an urgent need for a system different from the current one in order to deal with the prevailing legal uncertainty and the illogical legal consequences that this entails,” the ministry wrote in the introduction to the memo.
“The purpose of the proposal . . . is to prevent hemp and products containing tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) from reaching the consumer level while at the same time allowing the cultivation of hemp as an agricultural product,” the ministry said.
But the proposed regulations go too far, requiring that end products not contain even trace amounts of THC common in hemp, reflecting a fundamental misunderstanding of European laws and international protocols that make up industrial hemp, said Marie Elving, president of the Swedish Industrial Hemp Association (SIHA).
“The memo erroneously assumes that cannabis is first and foremost a medicine, rather than an important agricultural crop and a vital physical resource,” Elfving told HempToday.
“EU-certified cannabis with a controlled low THC content is no longer covered by international drug agreements,” SIHA noted in its response to the draft regulations point by point. The association noted that WHO recommendations and EU legal developments also establish a complete legal background for cannabis products derived from all parts of plants that express less than 0.2% THC.
“We are calling for regulation that assumes that hemp is essentially a multifaceted, climate-friendly and raw material supplier,” the association said in its response. SIHA urged that rules and policies promote the production of biomass, raw materials for fibres, oils, food and cosmetics using the entire plant.
Four hectares minimum
In response, SIHA said: “The roots, stems, leaves, flowers, and seeds have been used and consumed by humans in Europe and the rest of the world for thousands of years, and at such a low level of THC, the plant does not have any narcotic properties.” . “Given this, the same limit should be applied to products derived from agriculture registered in Sweden.”
SIHA has also criticized the rule requiring individual farmers to cultivate at least four hectares, a restriction that would discourage small local producers, and hinder research and development projects often carried out on small plots, the association said.
In other changes regarding proposed rules to the Swedish regulatory framework for cannabis, the SIHA has recommended the following:
- Hemp is treated like other agricultural crops in the handling, preparation and marketing of all parts of the plant, with all other restrictions removed if cultivation is carried out in accordance with the general rules for agricultural crops.
- Products containing CBD and other hemp to be sold as food or dietary supplements should be allowed as long as marketing complies with Consumer Agency, Food Agency, and Pharmaceutical Agency rules for nutrition and health claims.
- Cannabis harvested by registered farmers must be legally certified seed whether or not the cultivation is on land with agricultural support entitlements.
- Certificates of Conformity upon import must be available for all parts of the cannabis plant including roots, stems, flowering tops and seeds.
- Labeling requirements for origin and traceability of imported raw hemp and finished hemp products should be specified so that the consumer can make informed choices.
- Indigenous cannabis cultivars developed by the Swedish Seed Society during the 1940s and 1950s and which have been stocked in the Northern Genetic Resources Center since 2003, should be researched for the possibility of producing native cultivars suitable for growing in the climate of northern Sweden.
Hemp is barely recorded in Swedish agriculture. Modern-day records dating back to 2004 show that 150 hectares were under hemp that year. By 2007, hemp fields had grown to 829 hectares, but then began to decline. Recent years have seen total annual fields of less than 200 hectares, with most cannabis plantations being small lots.