By Constantinos Psillides
THE health ministry yesterday denied that they were to blame for the delay in the legalisation of hemp cultivation, adding that the bill would be brought before the Cabinet as soon as the legal services were ready.
“There is no delay on our side. The minister is waiting for the legal services to conclude their work and will present it to the Cabinet as soon as possible,” ministry spokeswoman Maria Lantidou told the Cyprus Mail.
According to statements by both Health Minister Phillipos Patsalis and Agriculture Minister Nicos Kouyialis, hemp cultivation should have been legalised by now.
A bureaucratic mix-up brought the endeavour to a standstill two weeks ago, with the health ministry permanent secretary telling the press that it wasn’t clear whether the minister had the legal authority to sign a decree removing hemp from the illegal drugs list.
Hemp, a harmless variety of the cannabis plant that is used mostly in manufacture of textiles and clothing, has always been classified as illegal in Cyprus, due to the fact that the plant it indistinguishable from marijuana plants.
Hemp has extremely low levels of the chemical Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the state-altering chemical in marijuana.
Hemp cultivation is not only legal in the EU, but farmers also receive subsidies. Cyprus is being forced to amend its legislation, since farmers have already planted hemp and have applied for subsidies.
Solon Gregoriou, one of the farmers who planted hemp and filed with the Cyprus Agricultural Payments Organisation (CAPO) for a subsidy had said on June 5 that he had no doubt as to the legitimacy of his actions.
CAPO has already moved ahead and included hemp in its list of subsidised products, with a €42-per-donum subsidy.
Gregoriou has repeatedly told the press that he is open to all police investigations to determine whether he planted hemp or marijuana.
Kouyialis had assured that the government has no plans to disregard the EU law, fully intending to harmonise national law but stumbling upon bureaucratic inertia.
The legal services officials were not available for comment.