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Cyprus Health

Hemp tea importers hit back over police seizures

Picking hemp in the Czech Repbulic from where the tea is imported

The importers and distributors of a brand of hemp tea is suing the government after several bags of their product – all licensed and certified, they insist – were seized by police during raids at various kiosks last week.

In a lawsuit filed against the state with Larnaca district court on August 22, Blue Bud & Co Ltd, a Cyprus-registered company, alleges that the seizures were illegal.

It is seeking the return of its seized product, as well as damages for loss of earnings – it argues that kiosks have since stopped buying its product for fear of entanglements with the law – and for damages to the company’ s reputation.

Blue Bud has written to Attorney-general Costas Clerides, asking him to instruct police to stop harassing sellers of the product.

The company said the actions by the police’s drug squad (YKAN) were illegal.

It says the hemp tea it distributes falls within the boundaries of recently amended laws which permit the cultivation and trade in substances containing less than 0.2 per cent of Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the psychoactive element in cannabis.

Blue Bud says their product is imported from the Czech Republic, where it is certified after undergoing lab testing. They have all the required permits to operate here.

The company imports the hemp tea from the Czech Republic, re-packages it – with oversight from the public health services – and distributes it to some 40 points of sale across the island – mostly kiosks and mini markets.

But during raids at kiosks in Paralimni and Ayia Napa on August 19 and 20, police seized bags of the product from six kiosks – suggesting that there appears to be some confusion among law enforcement authorities as to the existing law.

Hemp tea
Hemp tea

According to daily Politis, the confusion is demonstrated by the fact that during the raids police cited a variety of reasons for seizing the hemp tea bags. Officers told one kiosk owner that he needed a permit from the relevant ministry in order to sell the product.

In another case, they told the kiosk owner that the supplier lacked a distribution permit. And another kiosk owner was told by police that they were acting on a tipoff concerning the sale of cannabis.

A drug squad spokesman could not be reached for comment on Wednesday.

In a separate case, lawyers have started an appeals process at the Supreme Court for the case of Photis Andreou, the hemp farmer from Avgorou who was jailed in June after being found guilty of importing cannabis with intent to supply.

Crohn’s disease sufferer Andreou, 36, was jailed for five months on June 14 in Larnaca after the court rejected his claim that he used the drug to alleviate the symptoms of his ailment.

The court refused to accept that the 66 grams of cannabis was for therapeutic or industrial purposes and found Andreou guilty of importing with intent to supply as well as producing a solid green substance from herbal cannabis.

The Cyprus Mail has learned that the legal arguments will be mainly based on two facts: Andreou was charged using a law that was defunct or illegal at the time and that the chemical analysis by the state laboratory of the substance in question proved that it was hemp (industrial cannabis).

The state also faces the possibility of paying compensation to licensed hemp farmers whose product was seized and destroyed.

 

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