UK Relaxes Industrial Hemp Regulations to Boost Agriculture

The UK government has announced changes to the rules governing industrial hemp licenses, aiming to make it easier for farmers to grow the crop and encourage new investment in the industry. The revised regulations will support licensed farmers, promote sustainable agriculture, and discourage illegal drug uses of the plant.

Under the new rules, industrial hemp licenses will be valid for six years, up from three years previously. Farmers will also be able to apply for a license with a deferred start date of up to one year, giving them more time to prepare for the new crop. Additionally, growers will be allowed to cultivate hemp anywhere on their licensed farm, rather than being limited to specific parcels of land.

The changes, developed in collaboration with experienced hemp growers, will provide farmers with more flexibility in managing their operations and allow them to integrate hemp into their crop rotation plans. The move is expected to benefit the environment, as industrial hemp is a sustainable crop that requires minimal inputs and can help capture carbon from the atmosphere.

The number of licensed hemp growers in the UK has increased significantly over the past decade, from just six in 2013 to 136 in 2023. Farming Minister Mark Spencer said that the new rules will give British farmers more opportunities to succeed by growing hemp, which has huge potential to unlock new revenue streams and bring environmental benefits.

The UK government has also requested guidance from the Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs on whether the permissible amount of THC in industrial hemp can be raised from 0.2% to 0.3%, in line with international standards. However, the government has emphasized that it will continue to take a zero-tolerance approach to cannabis possession, with possession punishable by a fine and up to five years in prison, and harsher sentences for distribution convictions.

The National Farmers Union (NFU) has welcomed the changes, with Jamie Burrows, chair of the NFU Combinable Crops Board, saying that hemp agriculture can benefit farmers and the environment. The adoption of the new rules is expected to support the growth of the UK’s hemp industry, which has the potential to become a significant contributor to the country’s bioeconomy.


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