Farmers, health practitioners, weavers, gardeners and artists will gather in Bristol this weekend as part of a new mass civil disobedience campaign to grow hemp without a licence.
The group, under the name Liberate Hemp, was set up in response to hearing stories of farmers being restricted in growing hemp, which is classed as being in the same category as its psychoactive counterpart.
As a result, growers currently need to apply for – and are often refused – a licence to grow hemp, which is a non-psychotic variety within the Cannabis family. Hemp has only trace amounts of THC, the active substance which causes the cannabis ‘high’, and despite the World Health Organisation stating that industrial hemp poses no public health risk, growing it without a licence holds a maximum sentence of 14 years in prison.
Meanwhile, there is growing awareness of the crop’s huge carbon storage potential, health benefits and durability, and its many uses ranging from health products, clothing and building materials.
“Hemp is an amazing economic and ecological lifeline for UK farming but the licensing regime makes it really difficult to grow and produce it here,” said Zena Winterbottom, a former director at hemp grower Hempen. “Instead, the government seems to want us to import from places with supportive hemp policies like Switzerland, France and China.
“One farmer was denied a renewal of his licence because his farm was near a nuclear weapons facility and another because it was near a bed and breakfast. Hemp is too important for the health of the nation, the health of our communities and the health of our planet, to wait for the government to explain why they have criminalised growing it.”
The Liberate Hemp campaign, which also aims to educate people in how to sow and grow hemp in their window boxes, gardens and allotments, was set up to grow public awareness and a social movement behind the cause.
The mass grow will take place in central Bristol on Saturday 18 June, and further info will be released on the Liberate Hemp social media. To take part, people are asked to take a potted hemp plant, or seeds, with more available at the event, plus a trowel and a pair of gardening gloves.