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Oxfordshire farmers launch a campaign against Home Office policy on hemp cultivation.
Two hemp growers say they were devastated after they were forced to destroy 16 hectares of the crop, the end product of which can be legally bought in high street stores.
Patrick Gillett and Ali Silk said they had to reduce their harvest because the Home Office said they were no longer allowed to harvest it for cannabis or CBD oil.
As they surveyed the Oxfordshire fields where their combine tore through hemp, the couple were stumped by the order to cease production at their cooperative farm.
Gillett and Silk are so outraged by what they believe was an unjust order from the Home Office that they have launched a national campaign to reverse the policy.
“For three years, we operated openly and always kept the Home Office informed about what we were doing,” Gillett said as he picked up one of the remaining stalks scattered across the field.
“It was devastating to have to cut the entire crop just because the Home Office changed its guidelines. In fact, one of their guidelines is that any cannabis oil extracted from the hemp plant only contains 0.2% THC [tetrahydrocannabinol, the substance that produces a high psychoactive], which we also followed and in fact were frank with the Home Office . We kept you posted every step of the way when we started this business in 2015.
"It seems we are being punished for being up front and honest about what we were doing when we made the decision to extract cannabis oil solely for wellness purposes." Once we started in 2016 after learning about CBD oil and how it was working in America, we never hid it. "
Silk, who quit a job in the City of London this year to pursue his dream of a greener and more organic lifestyle, said: “We are prohibited from producing something organically, something that is also good for the environment by capturing it. carbon, which is available in shops on any British high street. You can go to health and wellness stores and buy CBD oil without a prescription, but we cannot produce it here in these fields in England because the Home Office treats hemp as narcotics or firearms. "
Silk estimated that his company, Hempen, would lose around £ 200,000 (about $ 270,000) as a result of the destroyed crop and, although his overall projections for sales in the next few years were high, at £ 2.4m, he said they would be foreign hemp producers who will reap the benefits.
“Patrick and I resolved that around £ 480,000 of our earnings over the next several years would be eliminated in tax. So this is a massive loss in tax revenue, in addition to the foreign producers that we can actually buy, the Swiss hemp producers, will be the ones to benefit from the Interior Ministry's ban, "he said.
As the sun beat down on a cut and stubble field, Gillett said, “This is all very strange. Nobody in the Interior Ministry until the end of last year told us: "Stop what you are doing, this is illegal." They got us started and then after a perfect year, wet spring and hot summer, he had a bumper crop that they had us destroy last Tuesday. Has no sense".
A spokesman for the Interior Ministry said it did not make routine comments on individual licenses. The tenant had a hemp grower's license. However, it is understood that his application to renew the license was recently rejected by the Ministry of the Interior.
Silk and Gillett said they sought the cooperation of the Home Office and wanted a full license "because any CBD oil that we produce would be within the legal guidelines of 0.2% THC."
Gillett said Hempen had been in contact with farmers from Yorkshire to the Channel Islands in an attempt to build a national campaign to overturn the Home Office ruling.
“We need to persuade the government to remove these decisions from a department that deals with illegal drugs and firearms, and put it in the hands of some place like the Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs. We need them to see the benefits of CBD and hemp in general instead of considering it a criminal matter. "
• This article was amended on August 7, 2019 because a previous version wrongly suggested that Hempen had never had a Home Office license to grow cannabis. The farmer tenant is understood to have had a license for three years, but the Ministry of the Interior recently rejected his application for renewal of the license.