The Estonian Ministry of Social Affairs is currently developing a change in regulations that will allow hemp varieties with a higher tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) content to be grown in Estonia.
Currently, Estonian farmers are only allowed to grow hemp varieties with a THC content below 0.2%. By early next year, that limit will rise to almost 0.3%.
Ago Siiner, CEO of Perfect Plant, a long-time importer of hemp seeds, pointed out that under local conditions, only two currently authorized hemp varieties are worth growing in Estonia.
“But this change would make three to five more varieties available that we could grow for seed,” Siiner said.
The regulations were changed at European level at the end of last year, when a regulation of the European Parliament and the Council of Europe was implemented, finally allowing the payment of aid for the cultivation of varieties Cannabis with a slightly higher THC content.
According to Reno Paju, an official from the Ministry of Rural Affairs, this could help European farmers compared to farmers in other countries.
“In many other countries around the world, the limit is 0.3-1 percent,” Paju explained. “The EU is catching up with the rest of the world on this requirement.”
Some 6,800 hectares of industrial hemp are currently cultivated in Estonia.
Reno Paju said he doesn’t think the change will have much effect on Estonian farmers, and he thinks Finola will remain the most popular variety grown here.
Several local growers are instead expecting the change to be impacted by Estica, a new Estonian hemp variety registered this spring, which also has a significantly lower THC content than its Finnish cousin (0.03%).
Reno Paju pointed out that the relaxation of the rules will also prevent hemp farmers whose crops have just exceeded the authorized THC content from being excluded from benefiting from agricultural subsidies. In Estonia, there have only been a few such cases, dating from 2017 and 2018, but it happens more frequently in southern Europe, where hemp cultivation is more popular and growing conditions favor the production of THC.