European Union Will increase THC Stage For Industrial Hemp. Why Does It Matter?

ROME, ITALY – OCTOBER 08: Hemp Act staff harvest light cannabis plants at the production field … [+] during the harvest phase, on October 8, 2021 in Rome, Italy. In Italy home cultivation of cannabis (or marijuana) is being discussed after a petition with 500,000 signatures triggered a nationwide referendum set for early next year. The current legislation allows the cultivation of cannabis, as long as the THC content is less than 0.2% for sellers and 0.5% for farmers. (Photo by Antonio Masiello/Getty Images)

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The European Parliament approved on November 24 to increase the THC level from 0.2% to 0.3% for hemp crops used for industrial purposes.

The rise of the THC level for industrial hemp is part of the measures of the new Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) reforms, which will enter into force in 2023. 

Farmers may receive EU subsidies if they use hemp varieties registered in the EU catalog with a maximum THC level of 0.3%.

The European Industrial Hemp Association (EIHA) has made this achievement possible, representing the common interests of European hemp farmers.

“This is a small step reflects that EU legislators are closer to fully acknowledging and recognizing the existence of a legitimate European hemp sector.” Said Lorenza Romanese, EIHA Managing Director, in a press release. 

But what does this increase mean for the European hemp market? Currently, the EU hemp seed catalog lists around 69 varieties of hemp. But with the new limits, European farmers will be able to grow much more hemp varieties. 

In 1999, France set the THC level at 0.2%, a limitation that kept out many valuable hemp varieties for industrial purposes.

By increasing the THC level of hemp crops from 0.2% to 0.3%, European farmers would have access to more than 500 hemp varieties. Although the THC level has increased by only 0.1%, this is a big step for the European hemp industry.

By accessing a wide range of hemp varieties, farmers can grow more vital hemp crops, develop better fibers, CBD flowers, and stalks. Furthermore, they can grow hemp in different soil and climate conditions, and seed researchers can create a new genetic heritage.

However, a THC level of 0.3% is not enough to compete with non-European markets. Although the United States and Canada set THC limits for hemp to 0.3%, other countries have access to hemp varieties with a THC level up to 1%.

“This is a great day for the hemp sector and another step towards a greener future for Europe. However, if compared to other countries worldwide, 0, 3 % is still a low limit; for instance, Switzerland, in the heart of Europe, has a higher number, and other EU countries already work with higher limits as well,” Daniel Kruse, president of EHIA, said in a statement.

Switzerland and Australia allow their farmers to grow hemp varieties with a THC level of 1%. The Czech Republic has set the THC limit at 1% within the EU member states, while Italy at 0.6%.

THC level for hemp crops is essential for CBD production as in industrial hemp crops it rises its level in proportion of THC. Consequentially, a limited THC level may not offer a performant CBD product. 

In recent years the area dedicated to hemp cultivation in European lands has increased significantly by 75%, from 19,970 hectares in 2015 to 34,960 hectares in 2019, according to official data. Hemp production increased 62.4% in the same period, from 94,120 tonnes to 152,820 tonnes.

France is the largest producer, accounting for more than 70% of EU production, followed by the Netherlands (10%) and Austria (4%).

The new CAO recognizes hemp’s economic and environmental value by including it in the list of products regulated through marketing standards.  

Hemp will undergo a wide array of rules concerning technical definitions, labeling, packaging, substances and methods used in production, infrastructures used for farming activities, and other aspects of the hemp-supply chain to provide the best quality product.

The EU recognizes to hemp several strategic properties suitable to securing the future of agriculture and forestry and achieving the objectives of the European Green Deal. For instance, hemp can be used as carbon storage because it sequesters 9 to 15 tonnes of CO2. Also, it prevents soil erosion and produces large amounts of pollen, helping biodiversity.