Croatia to allow hemp production for industrial purposes

The Health Ministry will soon propose amendments to the law on drug abuse prevention to allow hemp cultivation for industrial purposes, Hina learned from unofficial sources on Thursday.

The amendments will enable growers to exploit not only hemp seeds but also stalks which are now destroyed due to the very rigorous legislation, although the concentration of the psychoactive substance tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) in the hemp stalk is below 0.2%.

Hemp growers have been complaining for some time that they are losing millions of kuna because of such regulation, in light of the fact that hemp stalks can be used as a raw material in the production of over 20,000 industrial products including paper, clothing, construction material and biofuel.

The proposed amendments have been put up for public discussion, and recommendations and objections are now being considered by the ministry, which will soon send the draft legislation to parliament.

The owner of the biggest hemp plantation in Croatia, Josip Plavec, has been for some time advocating the legislation changes that will enable the expansion of hemp cultivation with an increasing number of farmers being interested in this activity.

Plavec, who started growing hemp in 2012, said that currently 650 hectares were under hemp as against 200 hectares a few years ago. He estimates that the size of land under hemp might rise to 2,000 hectares in 2015.

Currently, only 10% of the hemp plant grown in Croatia is used, that is its seeds for the production of oil, flour and cosmetics, and the usage of the plant will markedly increase provided that the usage of hemp stalks is approved, Plavec said.

The leader of the Green party OraH, Mirela Holy, who advocates liberalisation of hemp usage, welcomed the announced amendments. She told Hina that her party also advocated the legalisation of Cannabis indica.

In late March, several Danish business people visited Croatia to examine possibilities for the cultivation and industrial treatment of hemp, and on that occasion they expressed hope that Croatia would amend hemp legislation as the existing regulations prevent a better use of this plant.

Entrepreneurs Jan Lund Larsen and Peter Kjaer Knudsen, who held talks with Croatian government officials, said that they would shift their investment to Serbia if it was faster in the liberalisation of hemp than Zagreb. They warned that the current legislation in Croatia allowed industrial hemp farming only for the purpose of human or animal food.

The Danish business people would like to cooperate with Croatian farmers in cultivating hemp for oil production and for production of hemp-based products for the purpose of curing some diseases. They said they were interested in sowing hemp on 200 hectares in Croatia as early as next spring and setting up a factory for the industrial treatment of hemp which will employ 20 Croatians.

Last year hemp production jumped 65 per cent, which put Croatia among the leading European producers.

(Hina) ms