By Constantinos Psillides
The government is looking into legalising hemp cultivation, with Agriculture Minister Nikos Kouyialis saying that his department plans to subsidise hemp farmers so that the byproduct could be used in various industries, from ropes and animal feed to cement and textiles.
Kouyialis’ announcement came shortly after the Anti-Drug Council gave the green light for hemp cultivation.
The final decision rests with the House, which will be called upon to legally differentiate cannabis from hemp cultivation, so that hemp will no longer be considered as a controlled narcotic substance.
The agriculture ministry will examine the viability of hemp production to decide whether or not it will subsidise it, according to a letter the minister sent to Greens’ Giorgos Perdikis.
Kouyialis told the Cyprus Mail that three major foreign companies have so far contacted the ministry to explore the possibility of hemp cultivation in the island.
“They said they were not interested in subsidies. If hemp is legalised, then they will buy land and start operating in Cyprus,” the minister said, adding that there was no interest from any local companies.
The minister said that his office is ready to go ahead with the subsidies three or four months after the House decides on the matter.
He added that strict precautions will be taken to ensure that nobody takes advantage of any law amendment in order to produce cannabis as a drug instead of hemp as a commodity.
Within the EU, farmers can obtain a subsidy for the cultivation of hemp and flax (used to make linen). The motive behind the subsidy was to enable farmers a decent income from flax or hemp and to compete with world market prices.
France, Spain, the UK, the Netherlands and Germany all cultivate hemp to sell as a natural fibre source.
The EU regulations refer to the cultivation of industrial hemp, cannabis sativa L., which contains less than one per cent of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), a psychoactive component. Marijuana contains THC levels that typically range from 3 to 15 per cent. Hemp can be used to make a number of products, including rope, paper and textiles, while its seeds, better known in Cyprus as ‘kannaouri’ are used in the production of animal feed. The seed was widely available on the island up until the 1960s and were also used to make a cheap food, known as ‘kannaouropitta’.
Modern industrial use for hemp include the manufacture of concrete-like blocks as an insulating material for construction, while hemp fibres are known to have replaced wood for many jobs including creating very durable and breathable homes.
Some experts argue that individual marijuana and industrial hemp plants look nearly identical and require chemical analysis to distinguish the two, lending the crop to improper use.