8 August 1997

Hemp licence row over cost

BRITAINS licensed hemp growers are threatening legal action against the Home Office over plans to double the cost of their permits, from £240 to £480 a year.

Essex-based company Hemcore which processes legitimately-grown cannabis for 80 growers in the UK claims the proposed licence increase flies in the face of EU policies to encourage hemp production at a time when the market for natural fibres is set to expand rapidly.

"The Home Office is trying to increase the fee for each grower from £240 for the growing season to £480 for the whole year," says Hemcore general manager John Hobson. "This is not only unfair but will put us at a serious disadvantage against other European producers.

"Growers in France, Holland and Germany do not need a licence and the EU pays a special subsidy for both hemp and flax. We are fighting the Home Office hard on this and will go to court if necessary."

Britain is the only major European country to insist that commercially grown hemp is a pharmaceutical crop, similar to opium, says Mr Hobson.

Although the plant is botanically identical to the drug-producing Cannabis sativa, the psychoactive content of Britains 2200ha (5400 acres) of legitimate hemp is negligible.