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GNR admits not being able to distinguish hemp from cannabis



Photo: DR | GNR

At least two agents of the National Republican Guard (GNR) admitted to Cannareporter that they were not able to distinguish hemp from cannabis, referring this investigation to the Scientific Police Laboratory. Cannareporter spoke to GNR about the Barry MacCullough case, the 42-year-old farmer whose entire industrial hemp plantation was seized on 28 July.

Barry, of English nationality, was detained by the GNR of Estremoz (Évora) for “suspected drug trafficking”, but assured the Cannareporter that he had tried to show the agents the proof of the request for authorization to grow hemp made to the DGAV – General Directorate of Food and Veterinary and European Union (EU) certified hemp seeds, including certification of the THC level below 0,2%. In an interview with Cannareporter, he said that “the agents were not interested in analyzing the documentation, they were more interested in the plants”. Despite having received authorizations to grow hemp in 2018 and 2019, and having sent all the documentation to the DGAV, Barry admitted that he had not yet received the approval for 2021. Given the already known delays from the DGAV or even the absence of any response , as happened in 2020, decided to move forward, as the sowing season had already passed. During the arrest, Barry also tried to show agents the male plants, warning that a cannabis plantation could never have males around, but his perception was that the agents “had no idea what I was talking about.” . Barry, who has a basic level of Portuguese, was not granted a translator or interpreter during his detention. Furthermore, he says he was not shown any arrest warrants.

According to what Cannareporter was able to ascertain from the GNR Detachment of Évora, on the phone with Captain Pinto, “the arrest took place within the scope of police investigations carried out by the Criminal Investigation Nucleus (NIC) of Estremoz”, after receiving “information” , whose origin the agent refused to confirm. Asked if the agents could tell the difference between hemp and cannabis, the same agent replied: “I can't comment, because I'm not an expert, but I can't distinguish between the two, I don't know the varieties”.

Even so, the same agent issued, through the territorial command of the GNR of Évora, a press release in which he said that the GNR “located two cannabis plantations”, of which “the suspect assumed to be the owner and producer, not having any type of cannabis”. authorization for the cultivation or sale of this plant”. “During the course of the action, it was possible to verify that the suspect had in his possession about 124 kilos of plants and tops, dried and packaged, 24 kilos of seeds of various species of cannabis and about 500 packages” to carry out the “separation, packaging and transport of the product”, said the GNR. The Guarda estimate points out that “the product already prepared would give about 50.000 individual doses, with a value of more than 500 thousand euros”. Barry assures him that all he had was hemp and not cannabis.

What if it was cannabis?
Since November 2001 that “the acquisition, possession and consumption of drugs is no longer considered a crime in Portugal”, as can be read on the SICAD website. This change in Portuguese legislation, commonly called Law on Decriminalization of Consumption (Law nº30/2000, of 29 November) changed the way a drug user is looked at, leaving aside the prejudice that compared him to a criminal, starting to consider him as a person who needs help and specialized support . It can continue to be read on the SICAD website that “consuming illicit psychoactive substances continues to be an act punishable by law, however, it is no longer a behavior subject to criminal proceedings (and as such treated in the courts) and has become an administrative offence. Social". In Portugal, cannabis users have no way or where to buy cannabis, because selling it is illegal and growing it for personal consumption is prohibited. So how do you manage? There is only trafficking and the illicit market as the only resource to obtain cannabis and its derivatives. The GNR admits that it makes hundreds of cannabis seizures every year, with high costs for the State, as these seizures always result in criminal court cases, most of which are shelved.

Cannareporter spoke on the phone with the coordinator of the GNR Press Office, Sergeant Meira, who said he was aware that “this is not the first time this has happened” (confusing industrial hemp with cannabis), but that the agents “acted based on in a prior investigation and carried out the steps that justified its action”. The same agent also said that “at the time of the seizure, the suspect did not present any authorization for the cultivation of the plant” and sent additional clarifications to the GNR spokesperson, Lieutenant Colonel João Fonseca, to whom we sent some questions by email.

Order No. 10953/2020 defined the powers in the field of control of the cultivation of hemp for industrial purposes. Were the GNR and respective divisions and territorial commands aware of this legislation? If yes, how and when? Through circulars, letters, email or internal communication?
In response to your email, I would like to inform you that Order no. 10953/2020, of November 09, was published in Diário da República no. hemp cultivation for industrial purposes. In this way, the military of the Guard became aware of what was published in the Diário da Republica and, internally, the coordination and the corresponding articulation provided for in that order were streamlined, with the appointment of an official responsible for this matter, one of whose functions is to transmit to the other internal bodies the communications of the Directorate-General for Food and Veterinary Medicine (DGAV).

According to point 2 of the Order, “The Directorate-General for Food and Veterinary Medicine (DGAV) transmits electronically to the Institute for Financing for Agriculture and Fisheries (IFAP), to the Judiciary Police (PJ), to the National Republican Guard (GNR) ) and to the Public Security Police (PSP) the information received and evaluated in relation to the authorization requests granted”. Did the GNR receive this information from the DGAV? If yes, on what date?
The Guarda Nacional Republicana receives the communications provided for in paragraph 2 of Order no. of Deferral or Deferral of each formalized authorization request, the information being subject to the competent internal treatment.

The same Order establishes in point 7 that “The DGAV, the IFAP, the PJ, the GNR and the PSP must, within a maximum period of 30 days after the publication of this order, sign a protocol indicating the focal points of each entity and , in detail, the means of articulation with each other”. Has this Protocol been signed? Which date? Where can it be consulted?
Regarding the mentioned Protocol, it is under analysis, which is why it is not yet available for consultation. 

What means does the GNR or the Criminal Investigation Center have to distinguish industrial hemp from cannabis? How and where do you do it?
It should be noted that in order to distinguish between industrial hemp and cannabis, the GNR submits the plants seized as part of a criminal proceeding to the Scientific Police Laboratory, an organization certified for the purpose.

In a situation where the GNR or the NIC are faced with a plantation of the Cannabis sativa species, given that it is quite difficult to distinguish industrial hemp from cannabis for illicit purposes, because the GNR chooses to destroy the entire plantation before certifying the what is it about exactly?
In the context of a criminal investigation, the Guard may seize material, equipment or other goods that are considered relevant as evidence, which are validated by the Judicial Authorities.

On the other hand, why did the GNR decide to issue a press release on the same day as the seizure, stating that the “GNR detects cannabis plantations in Estremoz and detains an alleged trafficker” and that “the product already prepared would be enough for about 50.000 doses? individual items, with a value of more than 500 thousand euros” before being sure that cannabis (and not industrial hemp) was actually seized?
The aforementioned disclosure follows a police operation carried out in which the individual assumed to be the owner and producer of the plants in question, not having any type of authorization for the cultivation or sale of them, as mentioned in the statement. In this alignment, the respective investigation on the matter in question is currently underway, underlining that in the released statement the owner is mentioned as a suspect and not as a “trafficker” as stated in the question asked.

How many cannabis seizures were made nationally in 2020 and 2021? 
With regard to the number of seizures, the GNR, in 2020, made 354 seizures of cannabis plants. In 2021, until the 31st of July, it made 132 seizures, and these data are provisional.

How many and which of these ultimately turned out to be industrial hemp and not illicit cannabis?
As for the seizures, we reiterate the information previously transmitted, and there is no systematic information on this request.

Does the GNR have or have you had any specific training on industrial hemp or medical cannabis?
The process of updating institutional training takes place in an open cycle that is constantly being reviewed and updated, and in the case of specific training on industrial hemp or medical cannabis, similar to other permanently published legal changes, Guarda has implemented different levels. training, such as entry, promotion, specialization or sub-specialization and refresher training.

Who is the GNR officer who has been appointed to be responsible for the hemp matter?
The Guard has an officer appointed for the matters in question, and its public identification is not considered relevant.

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[…] Photo: GNRA difficulty distinguishing hemp from cannabis At least two GNR agents admitted to Cannareporter that they could not distinguish hemp from cannabis, so the GNR “submits the plants seized in the context of a criminal process to […]

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