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Since the rise in popularity of products derived from hemp and cannabis, such as CBD, many people have been wondering whether or not growing your own hemp plants and cannabis plants is legal in the UK. This is naturally quite a useful question, for it opens the doors to discussions about whether or not growing your own industrial hemp is worth it, what it takes to grow your own industrial hemp, and whether or not it is legally “okay” throughout the UK.
But before we go into whether growing your own industrial hemp plants is worth it, and whether or not you'll get your money's worth out of it, I think it is most important to initiate this discussion by stating the difference between industrial hemp and cannabis or marijuana plants. I only say this because, in the eyes of the law, this could be quite a big difference, and it's important to know if you are someone who is considering making their own industrial hemp farm.
Industrial hemp vs Marijuana
In the eyes of the UK law, industrial hemp is called low THC cannabis, and this low THC cannabis is still within what some consider as a legal grey area. According to gov.uk, there are two distinct licensing processes depending on whether the plants you will be growing are high or low in THC content (today I’ll only be talking about low THC cannabis).
This means that if you are looking to grow industrial hemp that you will have to go through one sort of licensing, and if what you were looking to cultivate or grow high THC cannabis there is a different legal guideline which you may need to follow.
To elaborate more on this, high THC cannabis or marijuana is categorized as a Class B controlled drug in the Misuse of Drugs Act of 1971. This means that as of now it is still against the law to possess, produce, sell, export or import any plant categorized as such unless given a special medical license from the Home Office in the UK.
Industrial hemp or low THC cannabis, on the other hand, is legal to sell, produce, possess, export, and import, as long as it's within the legal allowance of less than 0.2% of THC production within the plant.
You see, high THC cannabis and low THC cannabis are mainly differentiated according to the amount of THC the plant naturally produces. Cannabis plants, also known as marijuana, produce a much higher level of THC and has psychoactive effects on the brain.
Now that you are informed about the differences between high THC cannabis and low THC cannabis, below I will begin to explain more about actual licensing, what you need to know when thinking about starting an industrial hemp plantation, and hopefully, help you know more about it before you begin.
Getting a License to Grow Industrial Hemp
There is only one way in which you can obtain a license to grow industrial hemp in the UK, and that is going directly to the Home Office. The form you will need to fill out is called an MD 29 form, and it is under the drugs licensing website.
This formed must be filled out, and subsequently, you must provide details on the field location numbers, names, or grid references of the place where you are thinking of growing your industrial hemp. You'll have to provide hectarage specifics, and a farm map marked with your growing area; and you will have to inform the Home Office about the seed type that you will be growing, the THC content of the plants which it will produce, and proof for confirmation that it is a European Union approved cannabis seed.
After filling out the form you will also need to apply for an enhanced DBS check, for which the links are provided on the Home Office website. There is a fee payable for this DBS check.
Once you have submitted your applications, you will need to provide payment details so you can pay the fee which is required in order to complete the licensing to grow industrial hemp. The fee for a new license application to cultivate industrial hemp or low THC cannabis is £580. But this fee could change to £1371 if your application requires a compliance visit which is rare but possible.
How long are licenses valid?
The license to grow industrial hemp in the UK is valid for three growing seasons, meaning that it is valid up to three years. Licenses are always issued to expire on the 31st of December, therefore the time which you are able to hold a growing license could vary depending on when it was issued or approved to you. The Home Office states that it is in growers’ interest to make sure that applications are submitted in a “timely fashion”.
When you have a three-year license to grow low THC cannabis, you are required to complete and submit an annual license review statement at the start of each growing season. It is completely mandatory to do this, and if you do not submit an annual license review statement by the time outlined by the Home Office, your license may be revoked from you.
Are there any conditions on growing industrial hemp?
There are definitely a few conditions you must comply with if you are growing industrial hemp. The first and most important condition according to the Home Office is locating your crop somewhere appropriate, meaning that you are advised not to plant your crop in what is considered a sensitive area, which could be along the lines of schools or areas where access is public.
Another condition is that if you ever change the location of your plants or crop, or if you are to change your growing season, then you have to inform the Home Office. This means that you will have to send a detailed account of the changes along with your application reference number or license number.
According to the Home Office, it is also best that you inform your local police that you will be growing industrial hemp, and where you'll be growing the industrial hemp, that way they can have a good idea of exactly what you're up to and there are no problems. The Office also urges people to obtain a license before starting to grow any plants whatsoever, or else they will be growing illegally.
Additional information which is important to know
Not everyone has a nice big piece of land on which they can grow industrial hemp, and that usually means that either you are renting the land on which you are to grow your industrial hemp, or you are growing on multiple locations. Fear not! the Home Office has already thought about this, and they have steps in place what you can take in order to get proper licenses.
If you are to grow industrial hemp crops on land which is not yours but which you are renting, the grower (you) must hold a Home Office license, instead of the owner of the land. The grower (you) might wish to inform the landowner and you are also responsible for making sure that they are complying with the terms of the rental or lease contract or agreement.
If you are someone who is growing on multiple locations, for example, outside of the extent of your farm or in a neighbouring village, the Home Office urges you to contact them in order to discuss what licensing agreements could apply to this situation. They also state the fact that they may need to see copies of your bare land rental agreements.
Is growing your own industrial hemp worth it?
Now that you know all the ins and outs regarding growing your own industrial hemp, getting licensed and fully legal and what you need to go through to get the green light from the law, I think that you're definitely equipped to decide whether or not growing your own industrial hemp is worth it.
Of course, to evaluate these situations, it is useful to consider the needs, the cost, the work, and the time required to do what needs to be done when considering growing your own industrial hemp.
Above you can see that you need a plot or multiple plots of land on what you can grow your industrial hemp. Keep in mind, that it has to be somewhere deemed appropriate, and that it also is okay with the owner of the land (if you are renting it from someone).
You can also see how much simply getting a 3 growing season license is. You will have to pay the cost of the license, which is £580, with the additional cost of your DBS check which is mandatory. Also keep in mind that you are subject to requiring a compliance visit from the Home Office, which means that your license will then cost £1371. An additional cost regarding the license is the renewal of your license each growing season which has a cost of £326.
Now that you see everything summarize, at least in terms of cost and steps required to go through with your industrial hemp growing license, it may be a bit easier to decide whether or not it is something that you are willing to do.
In my personal opinion, if someone is thinking of growing industrial hemp in the UK with intentions of making CBD for personal use or small-scale distribution, I would highly suggest they go over the numbers multiple times. The initial investment and the work needed to carry out this plan just may not be worth it than say purchasing the hemp from an already established grower and then creating your products from that.
If growing your own industrial hemp is something that you really would like to do, I encourage it for many different reasons - the majority of those being the fact that the industrial hemp and CBD market are quite big right now, and I think that somebody could really profit if they went into the CBD business, especially when growing their own industrial hemp. For that reason, I truly encouraged you to go through all the different steps necessary, and I truly think that you will be happy and glad you made the decision of cultivating your own industrial hemp.
In the meantime, I really hope this blog was informative and educational. I recommend visiting Home Office at https://www.gov.uk/hemp-growing-licence and finding out more about growing industrial hemp on your own.