Thursday, September 28

Hemp wants to be legal

Hemp is a reviled crop. In 1961, at the Geneva Convention, the United Nations declared the plant to be a narcotic. Following this idea, in 1967 the law indicated that it could only be manipulated to obtain seeds and fiber. And so it has continued until today. Its multiple properties could give rise to a new sector from which the Extremaduran region could greatly benefit. Not in vain, the Extremadura Agri-Food Technology Center (Ctaex), located in Badajoz, is the reference for hemp in southern Europe.

Hemp brings together all varieties of the cannabis plant, also known by its other name, marijuana. The famous drug is extracted from here, but also cellulose for paper, fiber for the textile industry, seeds and oils rich in fat, biofuels or materials for cosmetics and medicinal applications, among many other uses. In addition, it is used for car dashboards – in France, almost all industries use it for its resistance and lightness –, to make furniture and shampoos or natural medicine.

Bearing in mind that at Ctaex ​​they always seek to provide added value to agriculture. Why not ensure that hemp can be related to the pharmaceutical or textile sector in a more natural way? In the center they already have enough experience in this matter. At the time when it belonged to Nestlé, they were working on a European project with L’Oreal for cosmetic use. Over time, they have not abandoned their research, on the contrary, they have increased it, giving rise to what could be called the “agricultural crop of the future”.

«In a European project we had to do analysis and research on hemp. We start to do quality control. We began to fine-tune the analyzes for that and we have ended up being the reference laboratory. In commercial traffic in southern Europe, the analyzes that have value are ours, those of Ctaex, “says José Luis Llerena, director of the technology center. It is this that determines how much concentration there is in the products of THC (tetrahydrocannabinol, the psychoactive principle) and CBD (cannabidiol, a cannabinoid that does not contain psychoactive principles)”, .

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On the other hand, in addition to this experience, the region has production structures: «170,000 hectares of irrigated land, cooperatives that unite the territory, water, people with desire and a good network».

from left to right the Ctaex ​​research team: Raquel Rodríguez, Montserrat Gómez-Cardoso, Míriam Herrera and María Pérez.

So it would be very easy to sell the hemp. “Since we are a business center, we have put ourselves at the head of this project because we have to solve the problems of the sector, generate added value and ensure that everything comes out with the Extremadura brand,” he underlines.

Business plan

The business plan they work with has several points. The Spanish Medicines Agency has given them the go-ahead to start the accreditation process to become the only commercial laboratory accredited in CBD. This is important, since legal hemp varieties in Spain must have less than 0.2% of that THC substance.

In addition to that, they have developed a quick methodology where they analyze how much THC and CBD there is in real time. Very relevant, Llerena also points out, to give legal certainty to farmers and producers as well as to buyers.

Ctaex ​​itself analyzes the amount of THC. /


They have also reached an agreement with a company called Bhalutek, with which they will act as a business accelerator. And it is that, first of all, Ctaex ​​has a license to research medicinal hemp, and another R&D license to develop varieties. Secondly, both are in the experimental phase developing varieties rich in CBD. And, thirdly, they work on food products.

Llerena admits that there is no reference to its profitability, since there is now a strong demand because there is no regulation…, but only in Spain. “We know that it is a very profitable crop.” Not only in Oregon (USA), the place that everyone takes as an indicator. In Campomayor, for example, they have “a paradise of profitability.”

In this way, what would have more outlet would be medicinal products, food products – which are not yet allowed – and the substitution of tobacco. “There is a great inconsistency –points out Llerena–, because CBD and industrial hemp extract were included in the list of products admitted for cosmetics. But that list is not mandatory. Spain does not accept it, for example. CBD products are produced throughout Spain, they are sold in Europe… But we cannot produce or transform them here.”

Why is Portugal so profitable with hemp? The first thing they did was change the legislation, since they have designed an article of the law that has increased hemp production by 500%, allowing its export. That is, it can be grown as long as there is a buyer.

without the flowers

In Spain, the aforementioned Geneva Convention is applied, by which the entire hemp flower is considered a narcotic. In order to be able to handle the flowers, authorization from the Spanish Agency for Medicines and Health Products is required, and there must be a certain quantity.

Hemp has multiple benefits and great profitability in the sale of fiber and seeds

“Under no circumstances can hemp flowers be handled in Spain,” explains Llerena. «The problem is that the CAP legislation is applied, which for textile use requires that plants have less than 0.2% THC. This legislation has been extrapolated for any commercial traffic. The fact is that it is unregulated. With a great interpretation by the authorities, because it really does not have to be a narcotic ».

“We are talking about a regulation – he continues – that we could release and thus help the expansion of the product. Then there are two aspects: medicinal hemp, which must be regulated, in which Spain is gradually increasing the licenses, and another, which is ‘playful’ hemp.

At Ctaex, the bet is to collaborate with the authorities to ensure the expansion of this industrial hemp and that the legislation is properly interpreted. But, for this, it is necessary to act as a pressure group. A lobby.

the lobby

To promote this process, the Hemp Technological Pole has been established, bringing together all the companies and research centers that operate in Europe, to have more strength.

Ctaex ​​has established the Hemp Technological Pole with the entire sector

«We have done this Pole so that there is a body of expression, a ‘lobby’ so that the entire sector can help from R&D in making legislative policies. For example, the president of the Board came, the superior chief of the Police, the large agricultural companies of Spain… Very representative people. We have long dressed hemp, uniting the sector with the people who have to legislate. And, in addition, we are issuing legal and educational reports to help regulate it.”

Products that can be obtained after transformation. /


Montse Gómez-Cardoso, head of Analytical Services at Ctaex, explains that until now what farmers have done is grow hemp, cut the plant and, without manipulating it, sell it as biomass outside of Spain.

“To grow industrial hemp you need three requirements: certified seeds, fiber production and THC content less than 0.2%. Now there is a lot of output, both for seeds and fiber. The problem is that in Spain there is not a single factory that handles it, due to the lack of knowledge there is.

Hence the importance of establishing a sector in Extremadura, where the bases to do so already exist. “Hemp needs little water. In addition to that, it regenerates the soil. On irrigated land it’s great, not just because of climate change. To produce one hundred tons of tomato we have exhausted the soil, for example. It is an unknown crop that represents a great opportunity for the region.”

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