By Constantinos Psillides
EVERYONE is invited to help, or even just watch, the island’s first hemp harvest in recent time being reaped on Sunday… except for the island’s politicians, hemp farmers said yesterday.
“No politician is to be photographed, or make a statement near our plantation. No political figure deserves that honour,” said the statement.
“This harvest is a blessing for those patients in need of cannabis oil and to all those who have supported our struggle.”
The hemp farmers, who also ask people to come wearing pants, shoes and be equipped with pruning shears if they are interested in harvesting. They did not say where the harvest would take place but did say free bus transportation would be provided for those who were interested in participating at 7am from the Makarios Stadium in Nicosia.
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. Solon Gregoriou, one of the most prominent of hemp farmers, invited the Drug Squad to test his plants to prove that he is in fact growing hemp and not marijuana. All of the results came back negative.
Hemp has extremely low levels of the chemical Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the mind-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.
Gregoriou, who filed with the Cyprus Agricultural Payments Organisation (CAPO) for a subsidy said in June 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.
While the farmers celebrate, they are technically breaking the law since hemp cultivation is still illegal. Cyprus is still in violation of EU law since Health minister Philippos Patsalis and Agriculture Minister Nicos Kouyialis cannot coordinate to propose bill decriminalising hemp to the Cabinet. While Kouyialis has green-lighted hemp cultivation, the health ministry still has to issue decree de-classifying it as a controlled substance. Patsalis maintained that it was not within his legal remit to do so and turned the case over to legal services.
Hemp cultivation legalisation is now in limbo, with the legal services expected to draft a bill and take it to the Cabinet. While a representative of legal services told the press in June that it was only a matter of days. Almost two months later the bill still being drafted.