Common Position of the Industrial Hemp Sector on the Single Convention and the International Drug Control System

Abstract:

In light of the global development of industrial hemp (hereinafter “hemp”) markets and its raw material Cannabis sativa L., the international industrial hemp sector (hereinafter “hemp sector”), as represented by the undersigned organizations, would like to reiterate its position on this topic and stress the need for clarification and a transparent debate on international law and regulations related to hemp. The current market barriers and challenges for a flourishing hemp sector originate in one particular interpretation of the international law to which regulations on food and cosmetics make reference.

In particular, there are two international legal instruments that we would like to make reference to in this position paper: The Single Convention on narcotic drugs of 1961, as amended by the 1972 Protocol (“Single Convention” or “C61”) and the Convention on psychotropic substances of 1971 (“C71”). These two texts contain in their annex the schedules where the drugs are listed.

It is appropriate to recall that (i) the cultivation of hemp has been clearly exempted from the scope of these two Conventions since their inception. As a consequence, all (ii) downstream products and derivatives of hemp are not, and have never been, listed in the Schedules of these Conventions, and that (iii) the Conventions actually disregard hemp in their rationale and in their general obligations.

Hemp plants cannot be distinguished a priori from “drug-type” Cannabis. During cultivation, methods and standards of cultivation used by farmers allow for crops with low levels of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC1), while a posteriori, thresholds and analyses applied by regulators determine market suitability. Hemp derivatives are obtained from all parts of the plant (e.g. leaves, flowers, roots, seeds, stems, branches) and have one common characteristic: their low levels of THC and absence of THC-related effects. Hence, the international hemp sector defines “industrial hemp” (“hemp”) as “a Cannabis sativa L. plant – or any part of the plant – in which the concentration of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) in the flowering tops and leaves is less than the regulated maximum level, as established by authorities having jurisdiction.” 

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