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WATCH: Scottish politician slams UK gov's treatment of Jersey Hemp

WATCH: Scottish politician slams UK gov's treatment of Jersey Hemp

Wednesday 13 March 2024

WATCH: Scottish politician slams UK gov's treatment of Jersey Hemp

Wednesday 13 March 2024

A Scottish politician has criticised the UK government's treatment of Jersey Hemp as "symptomatic of the lack of vision" and "lack of understanding when it comes to the hemp plant".

Ronnie Cowan SNP made the comments in a speech to parliament during the UK budget debate.

Mr Cowan used his time to promote the benefits of the hemp industry – describing it as a "win-win-win scenario".

"If we want to decarbonise our energy sector and we want to stimulate agriculture and we want to reduce plastic waste and we want to reduce landfill and we want to improve our environment and increase agricultural yield, then why is are absolutely no mention whatsoever of hemp?" he asked.

The Scottish National Party member called on the UK government to "help an industry that employs local people, could generate huge profits, pay their tax to the exchequer, and help offset the environmental damage that we're doing to our precious planet."

"The UK government went behind their back..."

Mr Cowan – who is the Co-Chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Groups on Industrial Hemp and CBD Products – said that "there are still people that walk amongst us that hear and fear recreational cannabis when saying 'hemp'".

He explained: "This is born out of ignorance and the most recent example has to be when the UK Home Office took actions to stop the export of products to the UK from the Jersey-based firm Jersey Hemp."

WATCH: Ronnie Cowan SNP criticised the UK government's treatment of Jersey Hemp as "symptomatic of the lack of vision" and "lack of understanding when it comes to the hemp plant".

"Jersey Hemp have worked for three years to ensure they meet every UK government compliance, and the UK government went behind their back to the Jersey authorities to stop Jersey Hemp operating," he continued.

"After months of legal action in the UK court, the Home Office has finally admitted that it acted unlawfully in relation to Jersey Hemp.

"I'm limited in what I can say, but no amount of compensation will help Jersey Hemp, which has been wiped out by the actions of the UK government."

Legal challenges

At the heart of the Warwick Farm-based company's woes was a decision by Whitehall civil servants that its CBD products were illegal, preventing them from being exported to the UK, its largest market. 

Jersey Hemp Director Craig Dempster claimed Jersey Hemp was told its product was banned because it contained THC, the main psychoactive ingredient in cannabis – even though the level had been proven to be within legal parameters – and criticised both the Jersey and UK governments for the "ridiculous" situation.


Pictured: Jersey Hemp has closed and laid off two-thirds of its workforce after being told by the Home Office that its CBD products are illegal.

Jersey Hemp decided to turn to the courts – and in September it was granted a judicial review in the UK High Court of Justice, which enables it to challenge the decision.

While lawyers for the Home Office did not argue against two of three grounds put forward, they did contest the company's claim for damages. A judge found that all three grounds for a judicial review put forward by Jersey Hemp were "arguable".

The Government of Jersey was listed as ‘an interested party’ in the proceedings and, contrary to the Home Office’s position, argued that Jersey Hemp should be refused permission to seek a review. The judge threw out their arguments.

Hemp potential

In his speech this week, Mr Cowan said he wanted to mention the ongoing case of Jersey Hemp because it was "symptomatic of the lack of vision of the UK government and lack of understanding when it comes to the hemp plant."

Among the uses for hemp highlighted by Mr Cowan were clothing, shoes, biodegradable plastic, insulation panel, food, paper and bio fuels.

"There are 50,000 known uses for the hemp plant," he said. "Finding markets for them would not be a problem; growing it is. 

"It will sell, it will be profitable, and the government could reap the benefit."

Mr Cowan explained: "The government should be promoting the fact that hemp absorbs 22 tons per hectare of atmospheric carbon during this form of growing cycle; hemp produces four-times the bio mass of the same size area of forest, making it a far more sustainable source of material; hemp doesn't need pesticides, insecticides or fertiliser to grow in the UK; hemp has natural antimicrobial properties so it passively cleans the air in buildings; hemp has a high capacity for moisture absorption in a controlled atmosphere than buildings; hemp construction materials act as a long term carbon sink."

He added: "The barrier to this industry raising the funding it requires is licensing. 

"To make this industry a success, the government only has to open his mind to the reality of what hemp is and distribute licences appropriately – the industry will take care of the rest. 

"Hemp is not a plant of the past, it's a plant that can pave the way to cleaner, greener future and its benefits are clear for all to see if we are prepared to open our eyes and hear the possibilities."

Such benefits had also previously been highlighted by the Jersey Hemp team, who had spoken of its potential future uses as varied as construction materials and animal bedding, as well as its potential to be a soil-replenishing crop.


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