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2019 losses worry hemp farmers

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Portuguese hemp farmers fear losses for 2019, after confusion between the Ministry of Health and the Ministry of Agriculture regarding the publication of an ordinance contained in the Medical Cannabis Law. The lack of answers regarding the legal procedures for the exploitation of this culture leaves farmers apprehensive.

The cultivation of hemp, using varieties recognized by the European Union, has been an activity allowed and controlled by the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development since 1999. Twenty years later, with the discussion of cannabis for medicinal purposes, national explorers of this crop have seen confronted with regulators unaware of the hemp crop.

The situation goes back to a clarification from the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development, in January 2019. The clarification assigns to INFARMED – National Medicines Authority, the powers to authorize and regulate licensing applications, including those related to cannabis for industrial purposes.

Cultivation in Portugal

Hemp cultivation was an agricultural activity with little expression in Portugal in recent years. The farmers who survived were already facing difficulties in the exploitation of this particular crop.

The different varieties allowed for cultivation without any type of licensing are listed in the Common Catalog of Agricultural Varieties and Species. The seeds, certified and with European labeling, are relatively easy to acquire in other countries of the European community, and are necessary to start a cultivation without the need for INFARMED's intervention.

Although this culture has percentages lower than 0,2% of Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), it needs to be proven by laboratory analysis sent by the seed seller. The presentation of this analysis and the packaging for inspection by an inspector from the General Directorate of Food and Veterinary Medicine was also mandatory.

However, the procedures relating to the cultivation of hemp, published on the portal of the Office of Policy and Planning, a state agency, have been suspended. Ana Paula Carvalho, Deputy Director General of Food and Veterinary Medicine, dismissed the responsibilities of the DGAV in the hemp process, which “is neither a competence nor does it depend on the initiative of the DGAV”. Despite the process of recognition of seed packages having been carried out entirely by DGAV's Plant Health Division in the past. Since the discussion of cannabis for medicinal purposes began, this Division has refused to issue any opinion, referring new procedures for the publication of a missing ordinance.

This clarification followed the “Cannabis for Medicinal Purposes Act” which established the rules for all links in the cannabis production chain. These regulations cover cultivation, production, extraction and processing, as well as wholesale, distribution to pharmacies, import and export, transit and final sale.

Decree-Law 8/2019 on medical cannabis, which came into force in February, changed the plans of hemp farmers. What is missing is the ordinance referred to above, which is in fact being drafted, “but is still awaiting an understanding between the ministries”, said a source from INFARMED at a conference on medical cannabis in Lisbon.

reluctant regulators

The new law combined with the clarification implies that hemp farmers must be subject to a licensing regime as strict as that for medical cannabis licenses. However, the president of INFARMED, also ruled out the responsibility of hemp, after the topic was raised at an event on the prospects of the cannabis market in Portugal.

“Recently, a group of farmers met with DGAV and INFARMED, in an attempt to find out which of the bodies is certifying the seeds,” said Hugo Monteiro, hemp grower and founding member of LUSICANNA – a cooperative of farmers and processors. of Portuguese hemp.

Hugo Monteiro also reported that his group was informed at the meeting in April, by the current president of INFARMED, Rui Santos Ivo, that the institution was not responsible for hemp.

“For 3 months DGAV and INFARMED pressed the issue against each other” regarding responsibility for hemp licensing, said Hugo Monteiro. “No one wants to take the risk of certifying the seeds.”

bad image of the industry

The visits by representatives of LUSICANNA and CannaCasa to the two governmental institutions were the result of a open letter addressed to the government and subscribed by dozens of industry stakeholders. The signatories called for the resumption of hemp licensing in early 2019.

This year, chaos threatens to overwhelm the business relationships that many companies have worked hard to establish, according to Hugo Monteiro. “It is difficult, because commercial relations were started last year. Analyzes were done, samples were sent to support confidence in our products,” he said.

“Now we don't have production for our customers. So it looks like we're not a reliable industry. It is very bad for our image and as a result our customers will look for the same products in other countries.”

Hugo Monteiro and his group of farmers may have no choice but to take the government to court. “We have 250 kilos of seeds in storage,” he said. “We are starting to calculate our losses”.

Silence gives consent

Label of seeds belonging to varieties allowed in Europe

Hugo Monteiro said that some hemp farmers are continuing to grow in it.

Farmers told CannaReporter that this is a tacit deferral situation. These started their cultivation, and declared to be refugees in the Code of Administrative Procedure.

According to European standards, it is only necessary to use a certified seed, and the authorization or approval of the DGAV is waived after 10 days have elapsed since the communication of the use of seeds with the certification.

In this way, and by sending registered correspondence to the institution, and a posteriori to the security forces, farmers guaranteed conditions to safeguard their cannabis crops for industrial purposes.

 

 

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[Disclaimer: Please note that this text was originally written in Portuguese and is translated into English and other languages ​​using an automatic translator. Some words may differ from the original and typos or errors may occur in other languages.]

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I am one of the directors of CannaReporter, which I founded together with Laura Ramos. I am from the unique Island of Madeira, where I currently reside. While I was in Lisbon at FCUL studying Physical Engineering, I became involved in the national hemp and cannabis scene and participated in several associations, some of which I am still a member of. I follow the global industry and especially legislative advances regarding the different uses of cannabis.

I can be contacted by email at joao.costa@cannareporter.eu

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