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‘Momentous Occasion’ for Cannabis Destigmatisation as UN Recognises Hemp is a Catalyst for Growth

Lorenzo Romanese and Francesco Mirizzi of the European Industrial Hemp Association

1 February 2023 at 12:00:00

Momentum is gathering pace within the United Nations to recognize the catalystic growth opportunities offered by hemp with all its multiple uses. The European Industrial Hemp Federation says that after 60 years of negativity and prohibition, the tide has turned for hemp at the highest levels of global governance. This will significantly help destigmatise cannabis in general.

MOST of the legal issues around hemp started at the United Nations with the 1961 Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs.

This punitive drugs convention shamefully followed the lead of the United States which had clobbered the industry in the 1930’s through prohibition and increased taxation.

Other countries were forced to follow suit and hemp cultivation dropped dramatically across the planet  from over 300,000 metric tons 1961 to about 75,000 metric tons in the early 1990s.

A Positive Light

However, in recent years, ourselves along with other hemp activists and organisations across the planet have been lobbying for the rehabilitation of the plant.

The success of these efforts were initially demonstrated with the release of the UN Conference for Trade and Development (UNCTAD) paper entitled ‘Commodities at a glance: Special Issue on Industrial Hemp’last November.

And, this was followed up with last week’s event in the UN Palais des Nations, Geneva, Switzerland.

This is probably the first time that the cannabis plant has been discussed under a positive light in a UN building – and with the backing of a UN body itself, it was a momentous occasion!

But, what we believe is the most important aspect of these two developments is that they are just the beginning.We are confident – and we are currently working on this – that this will be the first of a series of exchanges with the UN institutions.And the outcome of these moves is that we will once and for all destigmatize the hemp plant.

The Highest Levels

We believe hemp is finally being recognised at the highest levels of global governance as a key crop in the transition towards a new and greener economy, fit for the people and the planet.The fact that these UN moves have been started with UNCTAD is in itself recognition of the potential of hemp as a catalyst of economic growth and development. 

The hallowed halls of the UN have only previously discussed hemp in relation to narcotics, and prohibition.We are also honoured that the EIHA’s vision of the ‘whole plant’ approach, as outlined in our Hemp Manifesto has been adopted and used as source material by UNCTAD.This comprehensive publication lays out a compelling case for hemp to play a crucial role in a new, greener and more sustainable society.

This comes at a time when today’s environmental and health catastrophes are the price the world is paying for the negative externalities deriving from global economic growth based on individualism, greed and disrespect for all other forms of life.It demonstrates how hemp as a tremendous potential in empowering rural communities around the world, and especially in developing countries, where there is a dramatic need for pragmatic solutions that can revive the local economies and serve a wide range of consumer markets.

Increased Resilience

Hemp is the perfect complementary crop to legumes and grains. Communities can rely on it to produce safe and nutritious food, garments, housing, and a wide range of other products. Synergies with other sectors are essential and easily deployable.

Hemp is also a viable solution for raw material diversification and greening for big international players.We have observed how fragile global value chains are. By growing and processing more hemp across the globe, big industrial players can become more resilient.

EIHA’s Hemp Manifesto provides a global pathway to ensure that hemp achieves its full potential and delivers multiple economic, social, and environmental benefits.The UNCTAD recognised this in their report where they estimate the global market could hit $18.6bn by 2027 – almost four times the amount in 2020.

We are very proud of having contributed to the publication of the UNCTAD paper on hemp and to its presentation at last week’s event in Geneva, with an attendance of around 200 people online and onsite.And, we hope that by now discussing in full transparency within the UN framework, we will finally manage to set things straight and correct the mistakes made in a past where international regulations around hemp were guided by vested interests rather than science and facts.

 Lorenza Romanese is the Managing Director and Francesco Mirizzi, Senior Policy Advisor, at the European Industrial Hemp Association.

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