CBD on Both Sides of the Atlantic
The European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction explains that “In the European Union, it is legal to cultivate and supply cannabis plants for hemp fibre if they have low levels of THC.”Thanks to this law, which is applicable to every Member State of the European Union, industrial hemp all over Europe. France is the leader in hemp production, followed surprisingly by the tiny country of Estonia.
One of the main reason why President Obama signed the so-called 2014 ‘Farm Bill’ into law is because it finally allowed American farmers to become competitive in the industrial hemp growing sector. Up to that point, industrial hemp—defined as any plant of the cannabis genus with a dry-weight THC percentage below 0.3%–was very challenging to grow in the United States, but could be imported from Europe with impunity. This upset farmers in much of middle-America, including Jeff Session’s own Kentucky. It was Sessions himself who led the recent charge towards even further expansion of the Farm Bill.
But, just like in the United States, acceptance of industrial hemp does not equal acceptance of recreational or medicinal cannabis, or even hemp-derived CBD. Even in France, the European leader in hemp cultivation, strong feelings of demonization against cannabis still persists among the gentrified elite.
Still, legal loopholes in Europe allow for the sale and cultivation of recreational ‘legal weed’ as long as it has a THC content below the law of the individual country it is sold in. In Switzerland, that is 1% THC. In France, 0.2%. England allows no THC in cannabis products whatsoever, so the challenges of marketing there are harder to overcome. However, one of the most important differences is that in order to successfully sell this low-THC cannabis variety, or any CBD products in general, they must not be advertised as having any medical efficacy. Last year, the UK’s Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) ruled that any product containing CBD marketed as a medicine must have a licence before it can be sold.
Besides differences in CBD laws, European countries have also been pursuing alternative uses for hemp plants. In a process called Phytoremediation, countries like Italy and Russia have been planting hemp in places with deep soil contaminations to draw out the toxins, in a process not unlike leeching. Hemp is so good at absorbing nutrients from its immediate environment that it also acts as a sponge for any bad molecules that happen to be present there as well. That’s why the Russians planted wide fields of hemp around Chernobyl in the 1990’s to draw out the irradiated particles from the soil and help the area recover quicker.
It’s clear that the trend towards CBD use is growing daily across the world, and it seems that Europe’s laws regarding CBD distribution are laxer than in the United States, but the basic fact still remains that they cannot be marketed medicinally. And that is a travesty.