Lithuania on Thursday legalized growing hemp as of January for the industrial-scale production of textiles, making it the last of the EU’s 27 members to give it the green light. This further strengthens the exports of this thriving country as the USA still refuses to allow farmers to grow this cash crop even though they are, by far, the largest consumer of industrial hemp in the world. The ignorance in the USA regarding growing industrial hemp leaves the market wide open for Lithuania and other countries to meet the USA’s huge appetite for hemp products.
Although hemp is not marijuana, its resemblance to its high-inducing cannabis cousin has kept the plant banned in the United States and elsewhere for decades despite its many uses for textiles, food, cosmetics and other purposes.
Lawmakers in Vilnius voted 66 in favour to 16 against, while 22 abstained.
“Lithuania was the last remaining European Union country to ban the cultivation of industrial hemp. Our law on psychoactive substances prevented the cultivation of all kinds of cannabis,” agriculture ministry spokeswoman Virginija Vingriene told AFP Thursday, adding that the concentration of psychoactive THC in industrial hemp is negligible.
Petras Cimbaras, the Labour party member of parliament who tabled the hemp law, insisted Thursday that growing it “presents huge opportunities” that some Lithuanian farmers have already decided to reap.
Last year, farmers pointed to EU laws allowing its cultivation to plant around 130 hectares of hemp, Cimbaras said. A hearty plant, it grows well in poor soils and chokes out weeds, thus cutting the use of herbicides, he added.
Green member of parliament Linas Balsys was among those who voted against the measure, insisting “it would be better to promote the cultivation of flax to produce linen”, a strong, natural textile with a long tradition in the Baltic state.