In the British Isles, Jersey Hemp is the only farm permitted to cultivate hemp. While it’s licensed to produce CBD products, the United Kingdom government recently closed the farm down because it found trace amounts of THC in the farm’s products.
According to a BBC report, Jersey Hemp co-owners David Ryan and Blair Jones were forced to lay off half of their staff and ceased operation, and the U.K. government restricted any export of Jersey Hemp’s products.
As a result, Jersey Hemp published a press statement on June 23 that it will be considering taking both the Home Office and U.K. Food Standards Agency to court on the issue. “Jersey Hemp, the sole licensed CBD producer in the British Isles, is considering taking legal action against the U.K. and Jersey Governments following a directive from the U.K. Home Office and the subsequent support of the Jersey Authorities to restrict the export of Jersey Hemp’s CBD Wellness products to the U.K.,” the statement explained. “This decision, which contradicts a legal opinion affirming the compliance of Jersey Hemp’s products with relevant legislation, is a clear error in both law and judgment.”
Jersey Hemp was licensed for cultivation in 2019, and has spent the last three years meeting all of the country’s requirements for compliant operation. “We’ve got to really take a step back and consider the position we find ourselves in,” said Ryan. “It’s very frustrating, pretty sad, the impact on us has been devastating.”
The company’s concern is that this decision could negatively affect the CBD industry as a whole. “If this decision is upheld, it would effectively render the entire CBD market in the UK illegal, proving detrimental to Jersey Hemp’s viability as a business,” it continued. “Consequently, Jersey Hemp has already experienced significant financial repercussions, resulting in a redundancy process impacting over 50% of its staff.”
Hemp exportation is licensed under the Misuse of Drugs (Jersey) Law 1978, which is allowed on a “shipment-by-shipment” basis, according to the BBC. A United Kingdom Home Office agency spokesperson commented on the situation. “CBD in its pure form is not a controlled drug, but if a CBD product contains THC or other controlled cannabinoids then it is likely that the product would be controlled,” the spokesperson stated.
A joint statement from Minister for Economic Development, Tourism, Sport and Culture Kirsten Morel and Minister for Health and Social Services Karen Wilson explained that both Morel and Wilson are aware of the situation, but didn’t provide any details about what happens next. “We are aware that Jersey Hemp is in contact with HM Government with respect to exports to the UK—as a separate jurisdiction, we cannot comment on those talks and would also not speculate on their outcome,” the statement said. “All businesses that are licensed to cultivate cannabis in Jersey are responsible for making sure they comply with the relevant legislation in the jurisdiction into which they export products.”
There is evidence that U.K. citizens want to see improved access for cannabis, as well as other substances. A poll from June 2022 found that one fifth of British adults have tried CBD in the form of flower or oil, and 58% of people who participated in the survey said that they believe CBD offers health benefits.
Separately though, the U.K. maintains control over its own territory and blocked Bermuda from following through with cannabis legalization in September 2022.
But the future isn’t all bleak, as there is plenty of support growing for cannabis and psychedelics at the moment. In December 2022, U.K. police chiefs called out for decriminalization of cannabis for first-time drug offenders.
In April 2023, the U.K.-based University of Exeter debuted a postgraduate course on clinical psychedelics called “Psychedelics: Mind, Medicine, and Culture.” In May, Labor MP Charlotte Nichols spoke in support of psychedelic reform. “There are serious and considerable barriers to legitimate research, associated with Schedule I regulations,” said Nichols. “While current legislation does not preclude scientific research with these drugs, it does make them significantly more difficult, time-consuming and costly to study.”
In June, U.K. Secretary of State for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities and Minister for Intergovernmental Relations Michael Gove openly admitted that he used cannabis in his youth, describing it as a “feature of the student experience for a lot of people.” However, he claims that he “didn’t get very high.”