Daniel Fernandez is hoping for a hemp renaissance in Spain this year with the launch of a new Spanish industry association.
But first, the Galician says, the federal authorities need to be educated about the economic possibilities of the plant so that Spain can exploit the potential it holds for cooperation on hemp projects with Portugal, Eastern Europe and Latin America.
Fernandez launched the Spanish Hemp Association in November with a virtual event attended by about 70 people. He is now focusing on building the membership base.
"Given the limited understanding and lack of proactivity from public institutions, there needs to be a clear voice pointing out the inconsistencies [and] the opportunities," Fernandez told Hemp Industry Daily.
Current Spanish legislation allows the cultivation of industrial hemp, but only for grain and fibre and with seeds certified for use in the European Union.
The Spanish Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food says the law restricts hemp cultivation to fibre and seeds. This means that "the extraction of the cannabidiol CBD is only allowed from hemp seeds", says an email from the ministry to Hemp Industry Daily.
The ministry has also sent a draft communication to Spanish regional governments reiterating this CBD restriction and listing other bans and prohibitions. But the communication has caused confusion, Fernandez said.
"I tell them not only to review the existing regulations so they understand them, but also to take them seriously and come up with a national strategy for this plant," Fernandez said.
"The challenge here is: Is this a growing industry? It is. Do we have the conditions to grow? No, no we don't. And why? Because the government does not understand what is happening at the European level."
Changes outside Spain
He refers to the recent massive regulatory milestones for the international hemp industry, especially in Europe.
In November, the Court of Justice of the European Union ruled that CBD can be freely traded within the EU.
In December, a United Nations commission narrowly voted to classify cannabis and cannabis resin as a less dangerous drug, and the European Union executive declared that CBD can be classified as food, abandoning its stance that cannabidiol extracted from flowers should be treated as a narcotic.
In the wake of these massive changes, the Spanish authorities remain conservative with their stance on CBD.
The ministry said in its email that the consumption of CBD for non-medical purposes in Spain "violates international drug control conventions as well as current national regulations on the subject."
Fernandez said that an update of Spain's regulations on industrial hemp could facilitate greater cooperation within the EU, especially with Portugal and countries in Eastern Europe.
In the case of its western neighbour, Spain has historically not had strong relations with Portugal, but hemp could become the catalyst for improving economic and political alliances.
This, in turn, would lay the foundation for the expansion of relations in South America, Fernandez said.
"Spain would be much better off if we had strong cooperation with Portugal and worked together in Latin America," he said.
When it comes to cannabis in South America, Uruguay and Paraguay have led the way in legislation and exports, and Brazil is in the process of passing a law allowing the cultivation of industrial hemp.
There are also reasons for Spain to cooperate with EU member states in the east such as Poland and the Czech Republic, where seed banks were preserved under Soviet rule, he said.
"We have the European Union, but we can sometimes see a clear division between Western and Eastern Europe," Fernandez said. The countries that were allied with the Soviet Union after World War II "kept up their research and have very important knowledge about this crop."
In Western Europe, only France is the only country with a long, largely uninterrupted history of industrial hemp production, he said.