German hemp farm raided on grounds crop exceeds country’s 0.2% THC limit

More than two dozen officers from the Schleswig-Holstein Criminal Police Office, the Heider Criminal Investigation Department and the Eurin police carried out a surprise raid on a farm in Dithmarschen on 30th August as part of “an investigation into the joint illegal trade of large quantities of narcotics”, according to the Itzehoe Police Department.

Police said that parts of the farm’s hemp crop exceeded the 0.2% THC allowance permitted in Germany.

The search took place on a six- to seven-hectare field planted with hemp. An apartment and a company building used as production facilities adjacent to the field were also searched, and hemp plants were removed to determine their THC content. “An overall result with regard to the type and quantity of all the evidence found and their evaluation is likely to take some time,” the police department said.

The farm is owned by a 58-year-old woman and her 26-year-old son, both of whom are suspects, the police said.

 

What seems to be the problem

 

Germany’s Cannabis Industry Association (BvCW) said in a press statement that the farm has cultivated industrial hemp for years, with state approval.

The farm was growing hemp varieties listed in the EU Plant Variety database, according to BvCW, adding that the fields have been properly registered with the Federal Office for Agriculture and Food, which has also approved the harvest that is expected within days. The raid creates a “unique precedent” by confiscating officially registered hemp fields and interpreting the legal regulations as strictly as possible, BvCW said.

“Although it has been proven that this contains far less than 0.2% THC, which only has an intoxicating effect in larger quantities, the Itzehoe public prosecutor’s office confiscated all industrial hemp goods based on the investigative decision of the Itzehoe District Court, including the hemp fields with a cultivation area of around 3.7 hectares,” BvCW said.

Farming industrial hemp has been legal in Germany since 1996. However, extraction for the production of cannabinoids and resultant end-stream ingestible consumer products have complicated matters. The use of leaves and sometimes flowers to make “hemp tea” has often been promoted in Germany, but the legality of such a product remains murky.

 

Confusion over intoxication and hemp

 

The Federal Institute for Drugs and Medical Devices (BfArM) has said in the past that those products shouldn’t be sold to the end consumer, and the Federal Office of Consumer Protection and Food Safety (BVL) has given an official statement confirming that such products should not be marketable.

A number of lower courts have decided otherwise, and Germany’s Federal Court of Justice ruled in March 2021 that hemp tea can only be sold to end consumers if misuse for intoxication purposes is excluded. However, it did not define “intoxication purposes” and did not address issues around it being a novel food under EU guidelines.

The Itzehoe public prosecutor’s office “believes there is a considerable risk of abuse”, BvCW said.

The Dithmarschen farm was targeted because hemp tea “is suitable for producing an ‘intoxicating pastry’, so selling it to end consumers violates the Narcotics Act”, BvCW said. “In addition, the sale of caramelised hemp seeds as food is also allegedly punishable.” 

It is currently unclear how any hemp seeds – much less presumably cooked (caramelised) ones – could have any intoxicating impact.

BvCW said the action was over the top, and its president, Stefan Meyer, said the police search is endangering the farm’s livelihood. “If the Itzehoe public prosecutor’s office were to prevail with their new legal opinion,” said Meyer, “the existence of most of the 863 farms in the hemp sector and numerous processing companies and thousands of jobs nationwide would be threatened.”

 Jennifer Freedman CBD-Intel contributing writer

Photo: Fabian Holtappels

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