Hemp has a long history in Britain. It was believed to be first cultivated as far back as 800 AD in England. In fact, hemp was integral to the success of the British navy. Hemp had such important to the navy that in 1533, Henry VIII made hemp cultivation the law of the land. Peasants could even be fined if they did not grow enough hemp.

Today, however, is a dark day for the British hemp industry: Hempen, a non-profit based in Oxfordshire, has had their license to grow hemp revoked by the Home Office.

Since it was established in 2015, to “harness the power of hemp to create rural sustainable livelihoods”, Hempen has been producing a variety of hemp products, such as organic hemp seed oil, before adding CBD products.

The “emotionally and financially shocking” announcement that the Home Office has revoked their license to grow hemp will have a significant impact on the livelihood of Hempen’s workers, as well as the non-profit’s overall operations.

In November 2018, the Home Office issued new guidance for producing hemp in the UK, clearly outlining that British Farmers would not be permitted to harvest hemp flowers for the purpose of manufacturing CBD oil. Under the new guidelines, British hemp farmers would only be allowed to grow hemp for its seeds and stalks.

In order to comply with the Hempen has just 24 hours to destroy all its current crop, devastating the company and its workers.

According to a press release by Hempen, the company has “been clear in the statements submitted each year to the Home Office around how the plant was to be used.” Until yesterday, when Hempen announced that their license had been revoked, the Home Office raised “no issues” with Hempen’s intention to manufacture the hemp they were growing into CBD products.

The Home Office had previously stated in writing that Hempen “should continue to act as though the license had been granted,” while the new license was pending. However, in their latest communications with the Home Office, Hempen were instructed to destroy their entire crop, contradicting the previous advice from the Home Office.

Instead of capitalising on the booming CBD industry, the Home Office’s bureaucracy is leading British farmers to destroy their own crops and millions of pounds’ worth of CBD flowers are being left to rot in the fields.
– Patrick Gillet, co-founder of Hempen

Hempen view the “highly punitive decision” as one which will harm the growing UK hemp industry, favouring multinational corporations over UK-based companies:

“This highly punitive decision puts UK hemp farmers at a disadvantage, where the most valuable part of the crop [the flower], which is used to extract CBD globally (except in the UK) is rendered worthless.”

Patrick Gillet, co-founder of Hempen, expressed his concern about what the announcement could mean for the future of the British hemp industry:

“In challenging economic times for British farmers, hemp is offering green shoots of hope as a rare crop that can pay for itself without subsidy.

“Instead of capitalising on the booming CBD industry, the Home Office’s bureaucracy is leading British farmers to destroy their own crops and millions of pounds’ worth of CBD flowers are being left to rot in the fields.

“The government should move the responsibility of regulating farmers over to DEFRA and legislate to stop our CBD spending being sent abroad and be used to secure the future of British farming.”

According to a Freedom of Information request, there has been a significant increase in the number of UK farms licensed to grow industrial hemp (defined as cannabis with 0.2% THC or less).

In 2017 there were 9 farms granted “low THC (industrial hemp) licenses. This doubled to 18 farms in 2018, corresponding with the massive increase in public interest in CBD.

It is likely that the majority of the new farms were established to capitalise on the booming UK CBD market. The news that the Home Office is revoking license to grow hemp for the purpsoe of manufacturing CBD could have a devastating impact on the future of the UK hemp/CBD industry.

Krick Allen, co-founder of the British Hemp Association and CEO of Amberstalk, a hemp foods company based in London, added:

“We need to encourage more British farmers to start growing hemp by making it easier for then to get these licences. We can do this by transferring licensing regulations from the Home Office to DEFRA. In doing so, we can treat hemp like a traditional agricultural crop and would be able to utilise every part of the plant.

“There is an element that other companies from other countries like the US, China, Australia etc. would come to the uk eventually.

“It’s difficult to say, but we believe that there is a huge opportunity for British Hemp to flourish e.g. in foods, textiles, machinery, research, etc. Loosening the laws will help us compete with a global influences.

“Personally, I believe that more people should just #UseHemp. The more we use, the more we grow, the more we grow the better it is for our planet. It is the the worlds more sustainable crop and the more accessible it is the better.”

Hempen is now seeking legal advice to appeal the decision.