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Understanding Europe’s Laws for Maximum THC Levels in Industrial Hemp

Written by Jack Woodhouse

As the CBD industry grows, the demand for hemp also increases. But as hemp is a variety of cannabis – which is still mostly prohibited throughout the world – there are many restrictions that industrial hemp farmers must adhere to if they do not wish to fall foul of the law. The most important one is the level of THC that is in their plants.

THC, as you may well know, is the compound that is responsible for the mind-altering effects so commonly associated with consuming cannabis. In the U.S., the legal limit for THC in hemp plants is 0.3%. But what about in Europe? Let’s have a look…

  • Switzerland: 1%
  • Italy: 0.6%
  • Austria: 0.3%
  • United Kingdom: 0.2%
  • France: 0.2%
  • Netherlands: 0.2%
  • Germany: 0.2%
  • Spain: 0.2%
  • The rest: 0.2%

Need for change

As you can see, most countries apply a limit of 0.2% THC to their industrial hemp plants. This restriction was brought into force in 1999 by the European Union. Many in the industry now believe the limit to be outdated and hindering the European hemp industry’s competitiveness.

The European Industrial Hemp Association (EIHA) has repeatedly called on the European Union to change this regulation to be in accordance with international regulations, which are generally set at 0.3%.

Before 1999, European THC limits for hemp were set at 0.5% for a long time and then 0.3%. The decision to lower them further was based on the work of American plant scientists Ernest Small and Arthur Cronquist.

Swiss hemp flowers

Switzerland, with their 1% THC limit, have found themselves at the forefront of a brand new hemp flower industry. Low-THC, high-CBD hemp flowers sold in their raw, dried form have become hugely popular over the last couple of years. The trend has also spread to other European countries, although the quality of flowers suffers somewhat where THC limits are much lower. Italy and Austria, with their respective THC limits of 0.6% and 0.3%, as well as their close proximity to Switzerland, also have burgeoning hemp flower industries.

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About the author

Jack Woodhouse