It has been another exciting six
months in the world of Cannabis. Canada has normalized their industrial
hemp legislation and entered the ranks of commercial industrial hemp producers,
although complaints of bureaucratic permit delays have been widespread.
Australia has made substantial progress in normalizing hemp production and has
adopted the 50 mg/kg THC limit for the seed oil that is now the de facto international
standard supported by the IHA, the nova-Institute and the newly-formed Hemp
Foods Association. Canada must now take steps to amend both their arbitrary 10
mg/kg standard and their bizarre interpretation that products made from legal
hemp seed are not necessarily legal. New Zealand has shown early signs of
progress on hemp legislative reform and Australia's fine example should help.
On the medical Cannabis front, there is good news from the United Kingdom. The Home Office has licensed GW Pharmaceuticals, a medical research and development company, to cultivate medical Cannabis, to develop natural extracts and to perform clinical trials for the determination of their therapeutic efficacy. This is important, because the only legal source of Cannabis materials for research purposes has been the United States National Institute on Drug Abuse, which has refused to provide research materials to any project aimed at validating the therapeutic value of Cannabis or cannabinoids. Their monopoly on these materials is now ended. Let us hope that the wider availability of well-defined Cannabis materials will allow researchers to bypass this long-standing medical research bottleneck.
While all this comes as welcome news, the European Union is seriously considering cutting the hemp subsidy by 25 percent. This misguided movement is supposedly aimed at reducing the misuse of the hemp subsidy by farmers who grow hemp simply for the subsidy income, without the hemp fiber or seed finding an end use. Supporters of reducing the subsidy state that Europe’s subsidized hemp production exceeds European requirements for hemp products, so there is no need to encourage more hemp growing. In light of the fact that the European hemp industry is currently growing very quickly, this opinion seems unfounded. However, supporters of subsidy cuts also claim that supposed industrial hemp growers are actually growing marijuana. This outrageous claim has never been substantiated and borders on the hysteria we have come to expect from those without industrial hemp experience. Why would marijuana growers need an agricultural subsidy at all, let alone suffer as the result of a 25% reduction?
The IHA-sponsored Cannabis Germplasm Preservation Project at the Vavilov Research Institute (VIR) has been temporarily suspended because of our lack of funding. The VIR is able to make only a limited number of reproductions each year without additional funds from the IHA. We hope to finish all of the reproductions in 1999, freeze samples of each accession and perform evaluations of the accessions in common gardens at several locations of differing latitudes and climates. If these rare Cannabis accessions are not reproduced and correctly stored, then they will become extinct, since the vast majority would be impossible to collect today. These seeds are a living heritage, of which we are merely the custodians. Future generations of plant breeders and farmers are sure to benefit from these nearly 500 accessions that harbor many potentially valuable agronomic and industrial traits. Already, preliminary results have yielded extraordinary benefits: most of the Canadian hemp seed oil market is poised to blossom on the basis of VIR germplasm. In the past, companies and private individuals such as the Agricultural Hemp Association, Joyce Donoghue, FNPC, Green Machine, Hemp Flax, Hemptech, Matthijs Huijgen, Andrew Katelaris, J. Craig Melville, Naturetex International, The Ohio Hempery, Rella Good Cheese Company, The South African Hemp Company and others, have given us considerable financial support for the VIR project. To continue these reproductions and evaluations, additional funding is required. Please consider pledging a small percentage of your personal or company income to this worthy cause.
Matthew Huijgen of HempWorld (not to be confused with Mari Kane's magasine of the same name) will be distributing our journal throughout North America. He keeps a complete inventory of back and current issues, so North American customers should contact him directly (see advertisement on p. 63 of this issue).
Conscientious readers of this journal will realize that we have omitted the Cannabis archeology article promised for this issue. The ancient Scythian textile samples recovered from the Pazryk tombs are being further analyzed to determine their fiber identity and these discoveries are tentatively scheduled for publication in December. Simultaneously, we hope to publish a Cannabis archeological literature review and interpretation. Our sincere apologies are offered for this delay.
|Hayo van der Werf