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Spanish Police Bust ‘Europe’s Largest Cannabis Farm’—Despite Only Growing Hemp

Spanish officials announced Wednesday that 415,000 marijuana plants were destroyed. The estimated value of the plant was $108 million. Police claimed that this was a vital strike against Europe’s “largest cannabis plantation.”

Around 50 tonnes of plants were dried in Navarre, a rural region. It covered an area of 166 acres. They are currently facing criminal charges.

Here is the point where things get really weird.

The plants were all low THC hemp – a substance at least on the European level, which is no longer considered a “narcotic.” Even in Spain, the sale and consumption of CBD is legal.

Spanish Law and Culture

The unusual case of this man is the one that has made headlines lately, because it highlights legal confusion regarding the EU’s status of hemp and cannabis. This case also highlights the need for sovereign reform in every European country.

Legally, the cultivation of cannabis in Spain (including CBD) is only allowed when the cultivator is growing “industrial hemp.” Growing hemp for conversion into CBD remains a criminal offense. Indeed, Article 368 of the Spanish Criminal Code criminalizes the cultivation of cannabis when it promotes, favours, or facilitates the illegal consumption of “drugs” with a prison sentence of between 3-6 years.

This case however is somewhat unusual in legal terms. European law which Spain has not yet complied with does NOT define hemp with greater than.02% CBD to be a drug. This case shows that the farmer intended to send the extracted hemp plant abroad.

Further, per the KanaVape case, companies are allowed to export hemp flower and low THC products across country lines for sale when legally produced in the country of origin – which would also seem to apply in this case as the farmer claimed that this is what he was doing. This was despite the fact the crop being grown in Spain was considered industrial hemp. The intent to extract and export was the reason for the police’s action.

We will keep you posted on the progress of the case.

We have a dire need for European Reform

Such cases are what highlight the need to have a local approach to cannabis reform. The problem seen in Spain (home, let’s not forget to non-profit cannabis clubs where high THC flower can be obtained), is one that is also showing up in other countries.

German prosecutors can bring legal action against anyone who imports CBD. In France, this was also true until the Kanavape case, which of course then went on to challenge EU law on the topic – and further set EU wide precedent that if hemp is legally produced in one member state, it can also be exported to another.

A case is currently being heard in Germany to try and bring German law in line with EU standards in this area.

If properly defended this case may be a precedent in Spain.

However, it is still dangerous to work in Europe’s CBD area until such issues are resolved.

It was, after all, less than a year ago that the German grocery retailer Lidl was actually raided by police in Munich for the “crime” of selling cookies and other products containing CBD.

In the Meantime…

The whole European cannabis industry is becoming more dangerous, and not less. Reforms in various countries are making progress, while a common EU policy is being established on CBD. The same is true for Holland, the home of the coffee shop. There is currently a nationwide trial to regulate cannabis cultivation. However, the mayor of Amsterdam is proposing to ban tourists from coffee shops and shut down about two-thirds.

In Germany right now, there are several hundred pending cases against legitimate businesses selling hemp – even as the new government has announced its intention to create a recreational market for high THC cannabis.

In addition, approximately 185,000 people are awaiting preliminary criminal proceedings in federal court for marijuana possession and home-grow. Patients are not included in these numbers, as insurance companies may refuse to pay for medical marijuana treatment even though they have been recommended by doctors.

It is said that it is darkest before dawn.