How a Channel Island is Leading Progressive European Hemp Regulations

By Bill Griffin, Special Contributor to New Frontier Data

Recent changes in laws regarding hemp cultivation and processing in Jersey have resulted in a dramatic increase in the crop grown on the largest among the Channel Islands between England and France.

A self-governing dependency of the United Kingdom, with an estimated (2018) population beyond 106,800 residents, the island features traditionally mixed influences of British and French cultures. Technically neither a part of the United Kingdom (U.K.) nor the European Union (EU), Jersey’s status as a Crown dependency affords it constitutional rights of self-government and judicial independence, with considerable autonomy within its constitutional relationship with the U.K. (though in practical terms, responsibility for Jersey’s international representation rests largely with the U.K. government). The island’s official language is English, and its currency is the British pound sterling (GBP).

As it happens, however, a key differentiator between farmers in Jersey and those in England, Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland is hemp: By law, Jersey farmers can process the entire hemp plant, while their U.K. counterparts are required to destroy the (commercially valuable) flowers of their hemp crops. Given the demand for CBD in the U.K. and EU, cultivators in Jersey have particular incentive to grow and produce it.

Jersey’s laws further allow a 3% ratio of THC to CBD, meaning that a product which is 50% CBD can legally contain up to 1.5% THC.

As David Ryan, CEO and co-founder of Jersey Hemp explains, “a 3% ratio helps us massively with the processing of the hemp we grow. Extractions become easier and more efficient.” His company was one of the island’s first to benefit from the law. Jersey Hemp has been growing organic hemp since 2017, though last year marked a “game-changer for us, as we can now legally extract and sell full spectrum oil” from which they can remove the THC to market broad spectrum oil in the U.K. and beyond.

For most of the past 20 years, Jersey’s main crop has been its famous Jersey Royal potato. Due to Jersey’s unique microclimate, farmers there can harvest their perennial spuds (as they are called in the U.K.) earlier, making them the first to market. Unfortunately, the popularity of the crop has taken its toll on Jersey’s soil, lending a further environmental argument as to the benefits of raising hemp as a profitable crop requiring no pesticides, herbicides, or fungicides.

Jersey’s climate is keenly suited to the cultivation of CBD-rich hemp flowers, as it characteristically is neither  too hot, cold, wet, or dry, with relatively long, temperate summers ideal for the development of the flowers benefitting from the island’s sea breezes and southern-facing fields.

While Jersey’s hemp farmers do face some challenges (by law they are obliged to only cultivate hemp strains from the official European seed catalogue, which presents issues of its own).  Such strains were not bred for the cannabinoid content of the flowers, but rather the quality of the fibres.

Furthermore, in a post-Brexit framework, questions may arise about the validity of rules imposed by the European Commission as a result of French lobbying efforts to protect their domestic hemp production. Bearing that in mind, there remain possibilities yet for further adjustments among the Channel Islands.