Ministry of Hemp

Ministry of Hemp

America's leading advocate for hemp

Tag: UK

Growing Hemp In The UK: Regulations Stand In The Way Of Massive Opportunity

Despite a long history of growing hemp in the UK, by 1928 hemp was outlawed. Legalized again in 1993, organizations like the British Hemp Association are trying to overcome remaining legal barriers to the industry’s success.

There’s a long history of growing hemp in the UK. From Celts that taught women to sew and weave the fibre as early as 373 BC, to its abundance in the Elizabethan era when naval ships relied on hemp sails, rigging ropes and sacks, the crop is a common thread running throughout the history books.

By the twentieth century it had been marginalised, with its many functional uses inextricably tangled up with concerns around the psychoactive parts of the plant. By 1928, hemp was outlawed.

A densely packed hemp field with a forest in the background. It was illegal to grow hemp in the UK from 1928 to 1993, but advocates say strict regulations still stand in the way of a successful hemp industry.

It was illegal to grow hemp in the UK from 1928 to 1993, but advocates say strict regulations still stand in the way of a successful hemp industry.

That ban lasted no less than 65 years with permission to grow industrial hemp only reinstated as a legal activity for license holders in 1993. And crucially, according to members of the newly formed British Hemp Association (BHA), there remain a number of restrictions in place that hamper the huge opportunity for a thriving hemp sector in the country.

HOW MUCH INTEREST IS THERE IN HEMP IN THE UK?

Only launched this year the formation of the BHA coincides with the crop “gaining a lot more traction” in the UK and a growing number of farmers keen to get involved, said one of its directors Rob Kinghan.

A number of factors lie behind this surge in interest, he explained. Not least the rapid growth of the cannabinoid industry in the health and supplement market which has “injected a huge amount of interest back in the industry.” High street retailers, such as health food chain Holland and Barrett, are actively increasing the number of CBD products they stock, while brands such as Coca Cola consider CBD soft drinks and established restaurants market CBD menus.

Added to that is the recent decision by the UK government to legalise ‘cannabis-derived medicinal products’ where prescribed by a registered doctor. Shortly before the legislation was passed a national survey found that 43 percent of people supported the legalisation of all derivatives of the plant, including psychoactive cannabis.

A hand holding a hemp leaf. Prejudices against hemp and all forms of cannabis are beginning to fade in the UK, with 43 percent supporting total legalization of psychoactive cannabis ("marijuana") in a recent survey.

Prejudices against hemp and all forms of cannabis are beginning to fade in the UK, with 43 percent supporting total legalization of psychoactive cannabis (“marijuana”) in a recent survey.

All which is significant — not because growing the arable crop requires any associations with the psychoactive elements of the plant — but because it reflects a growing education and awareness among the UK public toward hemp as a whole, and therefore a removal of the prejudices that led to its criminalisation in the first place.

In short, there is “a general awakening of the benefits of hemp as an agricultural crop,” said Kinghan and, as a result, those interested in growing industrial hemp have grown considerably, with some talk of the UK being a prime location for extraction and processing sites. Only regulation stands in the way of a thriving industry, hemp advocates said.

WHAT’S IT LIKE TO GROW HEMP IN THE UK?

The BHA formed “to educate, lobby and commit,” summed up its chair Rebekah Shaman.

“Educate on the importance of hemp, lobby the government for changes and to collect industry together so we become one voice.”

In other words, it was set up to bring the rules around hemp in line with a shift in public consciousness of the crop.

“There’s an incredible shift in public opinion, everyone loves hemp,” said Shaman. “In 2007, I was making a hemp porridge and people thought they could get stoned on it. That was 12 years ago and it was a nightmare trying to get hemp out there, nobody wanted to touch it. Now everyone knows about it.”

Farming hemp in the UK remains a tiny industry though, with an estimated 810 hectares (about 2000 acres) under cultivation currently, compared to 33,000 hectares (over 81,000 acres) across Europe.

That’s largely as the legislation around it remains prohibitive, believe the BHA, with the government trapped in a “conservative and regressive licensing system that isn’t flexible or responsive to this changing demand for the hemp industry,” Kinghan said. Applications for licenses, costing £580 (about $740), are now often limited to one year (where previously it was three) and applicants are even required in some cases to prevent full business plans with potential buyers set out for each part of the legal plant. Unsurprisingly that “creates a huge barrier” to new potential entrants to the market.

WHAT CHANGES ARE UK HEMP ADVOCATES CALLING FOR?

Whole plant hemp processing

One of the major changes being called for by the group is a lifting of the restriction that prevents the leaf and flower of the plant from being processed.

A hemp field, with young green hemp plants growing in many long densely packed rows. Under current regulations on hemp in the UK, farmers are forced to destroy large portions of the plant, while simultaneously the UK imports "millions of pounds worth of CBD" every year.

Under current regulations on hemp in the UK, farmers are forced to destroy large portions of the plant, while simultaneously the UK imports “millions of pounds worth of CBD” every year.

Already confined to farming hemp for the fibre and the seed, a tightening up in procedure last year now requires growers to physically destroy all other “contraband” green materials on site, said Kinghan, while at the same time the UK imports “millions of pounds worth of CBD” from elsewhere in the world, an entirely legal cannabinoid.

“The money is in the leaf and the flower so by removing that opportunity for extractors and processors we’re having to rely on imports without giving our farmers an opportunity to be part of the gain,” said Shaman. As part of its ‘Whole Plant’ campaign the BHA is set to argue that farmers should be able to sell the leaf and flower to licensed processors instead, removing any concerns around selling direct to the public and subsequent confusion.

Who controls UK hemp?

For Shaman there is then the question of which government department should oversee the crop. Currently, with much of the plant still classed as a controlled substance, it is the Home Office rather than the Department for Environmental Farming and Rural Affairs (under which all other arable crops sit) that takes the lead. With experience in agriculture not housed in the Home Office, she argued, “that is crippling the industry.”

Shaman continued:

This is an industrial crop that could be turned into bioplastics, bio-diesel or fuel and yet we’re not given an opportunity because it’s not seen as an industrially agricultural crop, it’s seen as a demon crop. While under auspices of the Home Office we can’t move it forward.

We have to take the whole conspiracy away from what hemp is and see it for what it is, a super environmentally friendly crop that has all sorts of industrial applications, and that can help us with our environmental impact as we choke under the dominance of fossil fuels, plastics and so forth.

A young child with short hair grins while holding a hemp leaf toward the camera. The British Hemp Association believes that hemp can have a massive positive impact on people in the UK and the planet as a whole, if that government will get out of their way.

The British Hemp Association believes that hemp can have a massive positive impact on people in the UK and the planet as a whole, if that government will get out of their way.

That includes, finally, for Shaman and the BHA more stability around acceptable levels of THC, which currently sits at 0.2 percent, down from 0.3 percent previously, following new guidance issued in 2014. “That makes it really difficult to get some varieties grown because the plant naturally produces it,” she said.

IN UK ‘HEMP IS THE NEXT BIG INDUSTRY’

With all this changed both Shaman and Kinghan insist the opportunity for hemp in the UK is huge.

“I think hemp is the next big industry,” said Shaman. “And if we became an industry hub for hemp, creating sustainable products and bioplastics or becoming the supplier for Europe we would start bringing manufacturing back and that creates jobs. Hemp can offer all of that very easily and quickly. And a lot of people want to get involved with it.”

“There’s a real opportunity for UK regulations to lighten with some guidance from experts in the industry to allow many more farmers to grow this crop,” added Kinghan.

“If the government can listen to the needs of the industry we’re chomping at the bit to develop a very wealthy, successful and thriving industry in the UK.”

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Is CBD Beer The Ultimate Way To Relax? Behind The Groundbreaking UK CBD Beer

There are few things in life more relaxing than a cold beer after a hard day at work. Now, what if you infuse that beer with the soothing properties of premium CBD?

A new CBD beer is exciting taste buds even as it promotes relaxation.

There are few things in life more relaxing than a cold beer after a hard day at work. Now, what if you infuse that beer with the soothing properties of premium CBD? That’s precisely the idea that friends Carl Boon and Thierry Florit had one evening over a few drinks, which ultimately led to the creation of one of the UK’s first CBD beers.

A close up of the Green Times "High Flyer" CBD beer label on a wooden table. Green Times unique CBD beer combines a delicious light ale with the relaxing power of full spectrum CBD oil.

Green Times unique CBD beer combines a delicious light ale with the relaxing power of full spectrum CBD oil.

The result is High Flyer: an India pale ale (IPA) craft beer with a 4.3% ABV and containing 10mg of high-quality CBD in each bottle. Its evolution was far from simple. The two business partners overcame numerous development and legal hurdles along the way.

Editor’s Note: U.S. regulations currently prevent the national distribution of CBD-infused alcoholic beverages. We were especially excited to hear about this new offering in the UK and hope American laws and policies change in the near future. — KO

THE INSPIRED COMBINATION OF CBD AND BEER

Boon runs the successful online CBD company CBDUltra, while Florit is an experienced designer for many major brands. We spoke with them about the long process of turning a booze-soaked idea into a physical product on sale in shops and pubs.

“The idea first came about during a late-night beer tasting session when Carl joked about making a craft beer infused with cannabis oil — essentially a drink that adds nutrients back into the body, rather than just taking them away,” Florit told us, with a laugh.

Like all good ideas, the duo kept returning to it and soon decided to take it seriously.  A few weeks later they set up Green Times Brewing as an official company and sourced a unique water-soluble, full-spectrum CBD. Turning to one of Boon’s colleagues, an award-winning brewer, they then underwent the long, but no doubt enjoyable, process of fine-tuning the formula.

“After a year of conducting trials and taste tests, we eventually got the formula and taste profile right,” said Florit. “And came up with with a combination of cannabinoids, terpenes and exotic flavours, resulting in an easy-to-drink IPA with a powerful hop hit and refreshing citrus aftertaste.”

THE LONG PROCESS OF DEVELOPING CBD BEER

As you’d expect, specific details about the CBD beer development process have to remain confidential due to the competitive nature of the market.

“We spent a lot of time testing and trialling so we wouldn’t want to give away all of our secrets,” said Boon.

“The actual production process is exclusive to us, along with the water-soluble CBD. But what we can say is that we work with an award-winning London brewery and follow a traditional brewing method using organic malts and hops. And of course the full spectrum cannabis oil extract, which is also fully organic.”

When it came to the legal side of things, Boon;’s experience in the CBD industry proved invaluable.

“Carl has an excellent knowledge of the regulations regarding the commercialisation of CBD products, though we did have to check with a specialised law firm and all the various UK governmental food and drinks organisations regarding the legalities, to make sure there wouldn’t be any issues when going to market,” Florit said.

This includes ensuring the product contains less than 0.2 percent THC and emphasising on the label that “It won’t get you ‘high’”.

Two bottles of "High Flyer" CBD Beer sit on a table in front of a worn bamboo backdrop. Brief initial setbacks led the team behind "High Flyer," a unique CBD beer, to develop a better product including a fully organic formula.

Brief initial setbacks led the team behind “High Flyer,” a unique CBD beer, to develop a better product including a fully organic formula.

Ironically, considering the stringent restrictions on CBD and cannabis-derived products in UK, the main legal issue came from a very different source.

“We had a problem with the original name, Cloud Nine Brewing. Just as it was ready to go to market it was blocked because it was similar to a wine company in New Zealand,” said Florit.

INITIAL SETBACKS LED TO SUCCESSFUL ORGANIC CBD BEER FORMULA

Undeterred, they used this setback to improve the product. “We re-brewed, rebranded, re-bottled and returned with a new company name. Plus we improved the formula to make it totally organic.”

However, UK laws do have an impact on how CBD is marketed, meaning Boon and Florit have to be careful what they say when promoting the beer.

“Personally, I have been using CBD for some time now,” said Boon. “Mainly for stress relief, to keep zen and for general mental well being — and drinking this beer gives me a real sense of relaxation. But despite all the talk about the potential health benefits of CBD, it is classified as a food supplement so we can’t recommend it for any specific health conditions.”

Anecdotal reports tell a different story, and one that might appeal to those keen to avoid the dreaded morning-after-the-night-before.

“Due to the organic ingredients, fresh hops and cannabinoids, we’ve had customers say that they don’t get hangovers from drinking this,” Boon continued, adding, “But you’ll have to test that for yourself.”

Indeed, these customers may include some famous names considering some of the clients who buy from CBDultra.

Goldie the drum and bass DJ is an avid fan,” noted Boon. “He uses it to deal with anxiety and hypertension. Another customer using our CBD oil has now come off seventeen different prescription painkillers — he did a YouTube video talking about it and it’s had over 2 million hits already!”

THE FUTURE OF CBD BEER? THE SKY’S THE LIMIT

The pair have big plans for the future. Following a November launch in Manchester, they have many stockists lined up across the country and deal with constant requests from a public who are becoming more educated about CBD, and keen to try it in all its forms.

“People are continually asking every day where they can get it,” said Boon. “So the more distributors and stockists we can get on board the better.”

“With regards to markets, we are currently focusing on distributing to the UK, but we may consider exporting across Europe and other parts of the world as more and more countries change their laws on cannabis use.”

A pale, foamy beer in a glass sits next to a capped brown beer bottle chilling in a small pile of ice. The success of the UK's first CBD beer is likely to lead to more CBD-infused brews in the near future.

The success of the UK’s first CBD beer is likely to lead to more CBD-infused brews in the near future.

Expanding the range seems likely too.

“More beers indeed!” Florit said. “We’re looking at a gluten-free version, along with a vegan-friendly High Flyer ale. I’ve always been a huge fan of the German-style wheat beers and Carl loves Indian Pale Ales so let’s see who wins the argument!”

Certainly in the UK, beer is up there as our national drink, alongside tea (which you can also find at CBDultra). That explains the excitement around this brew in both the British press and among the public.

Boon agreed. “We’re genuinely enhancing one of the nation’s favourite drinks, so it’s going to be here to stay!”

After tasting the beer — it’s a delicious light ale, with a satisfying kick from the sativa-derived terpenes — it’s hard to disagree. And considering both beer and CBD are two of the world’s oldest relaxation tools, the only question is why hasn’t this combination happened before?

Thanks to two friends sharing a few drinks and sparking an idea, now we know how tasty CBD beer can be.

See more: Green Times Brewing

 

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