By / February 1, 2023

Seeing Green at the United Nations: The Turning Tide for Hemp

Most of the legal issues surrounding hemp began at the United Nations with the 1961 Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs. Unfortunately, this punitive drug convention followed the lead of the United States, which had undermined the hemp industry in the 1930s through prohibition and increased taxes via the Marihuana Tax Act of 1937.

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

The United Nations Sees the Light at the End of the Tunnel

In recent years, many hemp activists and organizations around the world, including European Industrial Hemp Association (EIHA), have been pushing for the rehabilitation of the plant.

And now, the tide is turning in favor of hemp at the highest levels of global governance, say Lorenza Romanese, executive director, and Francesco Mirizzi, senior policy advisor of the EIHA.

These efforts achieved public recognition with the release last November of the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) paper “Commodities at a glance: Special issue on industrial hemp.”

This publication was followed by last week’s event at the Palais des Nations in Geneva, Switzerland. This is probably the first time the cannabis plant has been discussed in a positive light in a UN building – and with the support of a UN body itself!

Cannabis Is Getting High in the UN Halls

EIHA now believes that hemp is finally being recognized at the highest levels of global governance as a key crop in the transition to a new and greener economy, fit for people and planet.

The fact that UNCTAD launched these UN initiatives is in itself a recognition of hemp’s potential as a catalyst for economic growth and development. The hallowed halls of the UN have previously only discussed hemp in relation to narcotics and prohibition.

The Plant, the Whole Plant, and Nothing but the Plant

The EIHA further infuses its “whole plant” approach, as described in its Hemp Manifesto. This holistic view has been adopted and used as a source of information by UNCTAD, in contrast to some views that break down hemp molecule by molecule.

This comprehensive publication makes a strong case for hemp to play a crucial role in a new, greener, and more sustainable society. It also demonstrates hemp’s potential for empowering rural communities around the world, particularly in developing countries, which can revive local economies and serve a wide range of consumer markets.

Hemp: A Resilient Plant

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

Hemp is also a viable solution for feedstock diversification and greening for prominent international players.

EIHA Paving the Way for Hemp at the UN

The EIHA Hemp Manifesto proposes a global pathway for hemp to reach its full potential and offer multiple economic, social, and environmental benefits. For example, UNCTAD estimates that the global market could reach $18.6 billion by 2027, nearly four times the amount in 2020.

EIHA, which contributed to the publication of the UNCTAD paper on hemp and its presentation at last week’s event in Geneva, now hopes to achieve a transparent discussion at the UN and set the record straight to correct mistakes made in the past when international regulations on hemp were guided by vested interests rather than science and facts.

(Featured image by GPA Photo Archive (CC BY 2.0) via Flickr)

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