SWEEPING changes to the way cannabis is regulated in the Czech Republic have been warmly welcomed as a positive development for the industry.
Czechia was one of the first European nations to permit the use of medical cannabis in 2013 after previously decriminalising cannabis use and possession three years earlier.
Despite this, those working in the hemp and CBD industry were still in danger of breaking the law as all cannabis extracts, containing any THC, are deemed ‘addictive substances’.
However, the country’s President Miloš Zeman is expected to sign into law a new bill from the Chamber of Deputies, the lower house of Czech Parliament, which will signal a new era for cannabis.
Hemp No Longer Addictive
The key pillar of this new regulation is the introduction of a concept of ‘Technical Cannabis’ – effectively industrial hemp – and any extract containing up to 1% tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) will no longer be considered an addictive substance.
Hana Gabrielová, CEO of Czech hemp business Hempoint, and President of the CzecHemp cluster told BusinessCann: “Our current laws exclude the presence of an addictive substance – such as THC – in any products other than medicines.
“The approved bill changes this situation. Not only does it introduce the term ‘technical hemp’, but it also clearly sets out what is considered technical hemp and the technical hemp plant.
“Thus, a technical hemp plant is a plant which comes from seeds listed in the European Catalog or from which hemp with a content of up to 1% of tetrahydrocannabinol, can be produced. The handling of this technical cannabis will not require a substance handling permit.”
The current European Union approved level of THC in seeds is 0.2% with this set to rise to 0.3% over the coming years. Whilst the new Czech level exceeds this Ms Gabrielová says it will allow farmers a greater tolerance levels for their crops.
Boost For Medical Cannabis Supply Chain
Whilst allowing CBD and hemp products for the domestic market to contain levels of 1.0% THC she acknowledges domestic suppliers will need to still produce products with lower levels for export.
If this bill is passed then the changes to THC levels will still need to be applied to the country’s food and cosmetic regulations.
Ms Gabrielová went on to say the bill will also allow more companies to supply its medical cannabis market with the new law establishing a licensing process for domestic producers.
He said: “As the cannabis rules relax Europe is expected to overtake the US to become the major market opportunity, and locally grown product will be at a premium.
High-Quality Raw Material
“Currently the uncertainty over what the THC level of a crop will be when it is ready to harvest can mean that in any year that has great growing conditions your plants may end up over the 0.3% THC level that was anticipated from a specific plant strain, requiring your crop to be destroyed.
“This can lead to increasing prices for all hemp derived products, not to mention economic hardship for the farmers. The new law removes this potential issue leaving the way clear for Czech growers to provide consistent high quality raw material for the EU market.”
While the upper house of the Czech parliament recommends maintaining the existing levels of THC in industrial hemp the President is expected to sign the new bill which will come into force on January 1, next year.
The chief backers of the bill in the Czech parliament is the largest opposition party The Pirates. It views this as the first step in transforming the country’s approach to cannabis with its eventual objective being full legality for adult-use.