FARMERS are set to reap a huge dividend from hemp crops if moves to scrap “bizarre” cannabis laws are backed by drug experts, a Somerset farmer/businessman claims.
Campaigners say the UK is leading the world in legal cannabis nutritional products but fear the booming industry risks losing its edge without reform.
Currently businesses must import raw materials for their brands – often sold as an oil to aid sleep or soothe aches – from Europe and the US.
The key ingredient is cannabidiol, known as CBD, extracted from the hemp flower. It is non-psychoactive and doesn’t produce the high of illegal cannabis use.
But while Britain permits farmers to grow hemp they must destroy the lucrative flowers because of other psychoactive chemicals present.
That means the crop’s only value lies in selling the fibrous stalks for building materials.
Somerset farmer and businessman George Thomas, whose company Goodbody Botanicals markets over 6,000 products, relies on legal CBD imports from Polish and American hemp growers.
“British farmers are losing out,” he said. “Why are we bringing this in from abroad when we can grow hemp here in beautiful Blighty?
“The climate is not quite as suitable as warmer countries. But if CBD could be extracted from the flowers, hemp would still be a hell of a lot more productive for farmers than maize or barley.
“Our industry is being held back by bizarre and outdated laws.”
Last year Goodbody Botanicals bought a farm and CBD extraction unit in Poland to boost its supplies.
The CBD is tested to ensure it has only the permitted level of trace psychoactive chemicals before being brought into the UK.
Mr Thomas, from Beckington, near Frome, added: “It would be great to grow hemp and extract CBD here.
“But that’s only part of the message we’re trying to get across to government. We need the Home Office and Defra to amend laws and relax the rules.
“And we need support for the industry so that we can build extractor plants.”