A regulatory amendment is now being drawn up by the Estonian Ministry of Social Affairs to allow hemp with higher THC limits to be cultivated in the country.
In a major advance for the European hemp industry, Estonian regulators are planning to allow hemp farmers to grow crops with a THC level higher than the current 0.2%. By 2023, that limit will be at least .3%. This in turn will bring the country up to regional standards created by the EU last year.
The change will require an amendment to the country’s Narcotic Drugs schedule.
This new liberalized policy however is not a move to legalize recreational cannabis – but rather is being touted as a way to help domestic hemp farmers who have repeatedly complained about their limited cultivation options under the current regulations. Currently there are only two varieties of hemp that can be legally grown in Estonia. The proposed regulatory update would allow between three and five new varieties of hemp to be cultivated.
The difference will also certainly make the country a more competitive market for the burgeoning CBD industry. About 6,800 hectares (16,000 acres) are currently under hemp cultivation in Estonia. Farmers who cultivate hemp crops with THC under the set limits are eligible for agricultural subsidies.
Normalizing Regulations in the Hemp Industry
The EU regulations on hemp have now been set at 0.3% across the region. Switzerland, outside of the EU, allows for hemp varieties that contain up to 1% of THC. It is unlikely that the rest of Europe will follow in Swiss footsteps in this regard until full recreational legalization. However, what this development does do is move Estonia to the front of the line of European countries which are on the cusp of changing their national policies on cannabis to conform to EU rather than outdated national standards.
The lack of regulatory homogeneity across EU countries is one of the largest impediments to a regionally strong cannabis industry – of any kind.
What Impact Will Recreational Reform Have on THC Limits on Hemp?
Recreational cannabis reform may impact regional standards on the amount of THC allowed in hemp. In all likelihood, however, just as is the case in the United States and Canada, the European cannabis market is likely to remain stratified between “medical,” “recreational” and “industrial” in terms of licensing and specific cannabinoid limits after full legalization. Such regulations will define which verticals cultivators are allowed to operate – and come, almost undoubtedly, with additional levies and taxes based on the amount of THC in cultivated plants.
In the meantime, Estonia will be one of the first countries to formally implement “new” EU standards on THC levels allowed in hemp.
This article first appeared on Internationalcbc.com and is syndicated here with special permission.