The United States spent decades convincing the international community that cannabis, including hemp, was a bad crop. As a result, many countries gave in to international policy peer pressure, banning hemp production to fall in line with the US hemp prohibition. However, largely since the turn of the century, things have been changing on a global scale.
Hemp vs. Marijuana vs. Cannabis
When reading laws on hemp production, it can be confusing primarily because sometimes it says cannabis and sometimes it says hemp. Let’s get this straight:
Cannabis is a category of plant which includes what is commonly known as marijuana as well as what is commonly known as hemp. The difference between marijuana and hemp is the amount of THC: marijuana has higher concentrations whereas hemp has less than 0.3% THC. If a country has legalized cannabis for consumption or production, then usually refers to both hemp and marijuana. However, if a country has specifically legalized hemp for consumption or production, then it might not include marijuana.
Hemp Laws by Country
Though not all-inclusive, here’s a more in-depth look at hemp laws and regulations by country.
In the 1990s, the state of Tasmania first initiated efforts to legalize hemp production with a license. Victoria, Queensland, and New South Wales also issue hemp production licenses now.
Austria has an 800- year tradition of growing hemp. A region in the north, known as Hanfthal, is also called Hemp Valley. Despite this long history, from 1958-1995, Austria had a hemp prohibition like much of the western world. Farmers can grow hemp with less than 0.3% THC.
In 1938, Canada banned the production of cannabis, including hemp. They broke the prohibition in 1994, when the country issued a few hemp production licenses on a trial basis. A few years later in 1998, the Canadian government passed a law legalizing hemp production.
Chile has a long history of hemp production which dates back as far as 1500. The production of hemp supported the Spanish military and was a major part of the Chilean economy. Today, hemp farms in Chile are primarily for hemp seed oil.
China is the cradle of hemp’s rich history that dates back thousands of years ago. Most people believe hemp rope and hemp paper were both invented in China. Despite this strong beginning, the hemp industry in China waned from the 18th to 20th century. However, in recent years, China has revitalized its hemp production, becoming one of the biggest in the world. That said, marijuana is still illegal in the country. Possession of large quantities could result in the death penalty.
Though Freetown Christiana (aka Christiana Haven) is one of the most famous parts of Copenhagen, recreational marijuana is actually illegal in Denmark. However, farmers can grow both industrial hemp and medicinal marijuana with the right licensing. Despite being possible, it’s not a cake walk to get the licenses.
Finland is one of the few western countries that did not follow the US when the hemp prohibition began. Although there was no official prohibition, production declined until 1995, when FINOLA entered the market. Made in Finland, FINOLA was the first hempseed oil to register in the EU. Finland also allows marijuana production with a license, so long as it is for medicinal marijuana.
Similar to Finland, France never banned growing hemp farms. France remains one of the biggest hemp producing countries in the EU. Marijuana production is not at all legal in France.
Germany had one of the shortest hemp prohibitions, starting in 1982 and ending officially in 1995. Today the German town of Kronach is home to what is probably the world’s only pick-your-own-hemp farm. To grow medicinal marijuana, farmers must obtain permission from Germany’s Federal Institute for Drugs and Medical Devices.
Like much of Europe, the UK has a long history of using hemp for wartime materials. Without hemp, Britain might not have had the power to colonize so much of the world. Almost ignoring all the plant had done for them over the years, the United Kingdom abruptly banned the production of hemp in 1928. The ban was lifted for a few years, but hemp became outlawed again soon after. In 1993, UK finally lifted the ban once more – and this time it stuck. Now, farmers who wish to cultivate hemp need a license to do so. As a result of overturning the ban, the UK has become one of the biggest hemp producers in the world.
There’s much talk about revitalizing the hemp industry in this Eastern European country. A possible method to jumpstart the otherwise flagging economy, hemp could just be the answer. That said, it’s important to understand that the punishment for marijuana use is quite strict. That’s because Hungary considers it illegal and makes no distinction between illegal drugs – the punishment for possessing heroin and marijuana are the same; either could land you in prison for years if not decades.
Hemp and marijuana both have a long history in the country, in part due to religious practices such as Shivaratri, a days-long Hindu holiday where drinking bhaang, a milk drink made out of cannabis, is a tradition. Though technically illegal at the federal level, private consumption seems to fall more in a grey area as cannabis prosecutions seem few and far between. The legality of industrial hemp production falls at state discretion. Right now, it is legal in the state of Uttarakhand and accepted in some other states like Bihar, Jharkhand, Odisha, and others. Hemp textiles, beauty products and more are found throughout India.
Israeli scientist Dr. Raphael Mechoulam was the first researcher to discover cannabidiol (CBD), a compound present in cannabis. That happened in the 1960s, and the country has since continued to be at the forefront of cannabis research. So, it’s a bit surprising that the laws surrounding the growth of hemp and cannabis haven’t always been equally progressive. Hemp was illegal in Israel for much of the country’s existence. However, in 2017, the country decided to start growing hemp on a trial basis. This is to happen in Arava, Lachish and southern Golan Heights.
This small island country has a reputation for being the home of Ganja culture. However, in 1913, the plant became illegal and punishments were quite harsh from 1941-1961. The ban, however, didn’t seem to prevent production – it only increased illegal activity, corruption, and substance trafficking. In 2015, cannabis laws were amended. Now, it is legal to grow a small number of plants at home. The Jamaican government has also stated that it’s considering to allow a motor car company to grow hemp in Jamaica, a move many think will boost the economy.
The oldest evidence of hemp’s existence is from Japan. However, that doesn’t mean it’s legal today. Hemp farming is mostly illegal in Japan, though an exception is made for tradition: one small, legal hemp farm exists to fulfill ancient Japanese rituals for the imperial family.
Although hemp and marijuana grows in abundance in Lebanon’s arid Bekaa Valley, the crops have technically been illegal until recently. Thanks to consultants McKinsey & Co., the Lebanese Government has realized that cannabis cultivation can be good for their small, struggling economy. Government officials are hoping that they’ll be able to benefit from being early adopters in the region.
In early 2018, Lesotho made the cannabis headlines: it’s now issuing cannabis growing licenses to a few select cultivators. Until date, both license holders are foreign companies, US company Corix Bioscience Inc. (the license was first issued to Canadian company Pharmaceutical Development Company Ltd, but that was acquired by Corix), and South African company Verve Dynamics.
Right now, growing hemp is under review. There are some trial hemp farms in Malawi. After the trial, the government will decide whether or not to legalize industrial hemp in Malawi.
In June 2017, Mexico passed a bill that allows for cultivation of hemp with less than 1% of THC. CBD products are treated as supplements. In some cases, hemp with more than 1% THC can be used for medicinal purposes if a person has a prescription.
Apparently, there are hemp laws on the books that prohibit the cultivation of hemp in Nepal. Strange, because you can walk through every city in Nepal and find a number of shops selling Nepali handicrafts, clothes and everyday products made from domestic hemp fiber. The country even exports hemp fabric through seemingly legal channels with no repercussions whatsoever.
For years, Netherlands has been the home of hemp and cannabis products. CBD cookies, gummies, lollipops and other edibles have been for sale in grocers and shops across the country. Furthermore, tourists have flocked to the country’s notorious cannabis coffee shops. However, hemp laws prevented growing cannabis and hemp – and doing so was a punishable crime. Imagine, in 2015, the Dutch police destroyed 6,000 hemp farms. Thankfully, in 2017, lawmakers have legalized the cultivation of hemp so long as farmers obtain a license.
Cannabis grew freely in Poland until the 1900s, when, like many countries, a ban was put into place. In fact, in 1997 possessing cannabis became a criminal offense on par with possessing cocaine or heroin. That all changed in 2011 when cannabis was decriminalized. Now, with proper licensing, it’s possible to farm hemp in Poland. Most of this is for textiles and building materials.
Like many countries, Romania legalized hemp cultivation to give their economy a solid boost. Farmers can grow and people can use hemp with low THC. At least one US company has invested major bucks in hemp cultivation and production in the country. As a result, Romania is among one of the biggest hemp producing countries in Europe.
As things stand right now, hemp cultivation in Portugal is technically not legal or illegal. That said, the major Canadian cannabis producer Tilray is said to be setting up a $30 million medical cannabis operation in Portugal very soon. They have been granted all the necessary legal permissions to start their project.
Hemp was a major crop in the USSR until Mikhail Gorbachev made it illegal. Hence, the entire hemp industry in Russia was almost nonexistent as recently as 2010. Now, the country is starting to get involved in hemp processing and cultivation. This will be limited to hemp with less than 1% of THC.
Hemp farmers can grow one hectare of low THC hemp (less than 0.2% THC) without a permit. To grow more, they must need a cannabis farming permit issued by the Slovenian government. Recreational cannabis use is not legal, but it was decriminalized in 2013.
As a result of a lot of advocacy, South Africa legalized the private cultivation and consumption of cannabis. However, public cannabis consumption, as well as private consumption in front of a child or non-consenting adult is illegal.
Spain’s laws regarding hemp are in line with EU laws: industrial hemp with less than 0.2% THC is legal, but anything above that is not, except for in the case of a few cannabis-derived pharmaceuticals. However, private use and cultivation of limited plants is considered to be legal so long as there is no commercial sale thereof.
Like some other countries in South Asia, Sri Lanka allows the cultivation of hemp largely due to traditional use of the plant. A common component of Ayurveda, the Sri Lankan government allows it, but still regulates hemp farming. The Ayurveda Act allows for the sale of hemp and cannabis products at Ayurvedic shops.
In 2011, Switzerland legalized cannabis products which contained less than 1% of THC. The Swiss government is currently at odds as to whether or not to legalize the production of hemp and medicinal cannabis. So far, no legislation has passed in favor of hemp farming, but if advocacy works, it could be on the horizon.
In 2016, the Turkish government legalized cannabis production in 19 of the country’s 81 provinces. Growers apply for a 3-year license, and only those who have not participated in illegal cannabis or narcotic production in the past are eligible. Farmers in other provinces may also be granted a license if the farming is for the benefit of science.
Hemp cultivation is currently against federal law in America. However, states such as Colorado, Kentucky, Oregon and Tennessee have hemp laws that make it legal according to state law. Technically, farmers could still be prosecuted at the federal level, however, this has not yet happened – nor do we see it happening anytime soon. Many lawmakers are pushing for hemp cultivation to become legal according to federal law. This may happen with the next Farm Bill.
Uruguay was the first country to legalize cannabis completely. This somewhat recent change in their hemp laws was an inspiration to many other countries. Individuals can grow up to six plants at home. Businesses, distributors, and industrial growers need authorization to work in the supply chain of the hemp industry.
Upon seeing other countries reap the financial benefits of growing hemp, the Zambian government decided that it might be worth giving it a go. In 2017, the Home Affairs Minister stated that farmers could grow cannabis legally if they get a license. However, is seems he didn’t discuss it with the country’s health minister, who stated he’s not going to issue any such license to anyone.
International Hemp Laws Will Continue to Change
The laws of hemp cultivation, production and use are changing across the globe every day. More countries and governments are turning hemp positive, giving more farmers and individuals access to the wonderful health and financial benefits possible with hemp!
Healthy on Hemp aims to provide you with the latest information on international hemp laws, so watch this space for the most up-to-date info. We’ll update it as things progress and new global legislations emerge.