On 1 January 2022, an amendment to Act No. 167/1988 Coll., on addictive substances, entered into force. The long-awaited increase in the maximum permissible THC content is here. What other major changes does this amendment bring to the cultivation and distribution of cannabis, which concepts does it change and introduce, and what might it all mean in practice?
Amendment and regulation
What are the main elements of the change in cannabis regulation? First of all, the restrictions on the handling of certain categories of cannabis have been eased. It is also the liberalisation of the medical cannabis market.
According to the legislators, the main purpose of the amendment is to increase the availability of less dangerous forms of cannabis.
Read this article for a more detailed look at each change.
Definitions and new terms
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The amendment deals with more detailed regulation of the cultivation and distribution of cannabis. This includes changes to definitions and the definition of new terms:
- cannabis for medicinal use is ‘cannabis that is intended by the producer for a therapeutic purpose in humans or for processing for that purpose’,
- a medicinal cannabis plant is ‘a plant of the genus Cannabis which is cultivated for the purpose of producing cannabis for medicinal use‘,
- technical hemp plant means ‘a plant of the genus Cannabis from which hemp can be obtained containing not more than 1 % of substances of the tetrahydrocannabinol group‘,
- technical hemp is then ‘hemp from the technical hemp plant’.
Changes in the proportion of THC
A major change brought about by the amendment is a significant increase in the maximum allowable THC content of cannabis plants. Specifically, from 0.3% to 1%.
JUDr. Mojmír Ježek, Ph.D. from ECOVIS hedgehog, the law firm s.r.o. adds to this: “Where the law on addictive substances previously exempted cannabis with a THC content of 0.3% or less from public regulation, the amendment speaks of technical cannabis and its plants, which by definition have up to 1% THC (or are determined by the said European catalogue, so they could theoretically contain an even higher proportion of THC).”
Cosmetic and other purposes
The novelty is also that (in the words of the law) “particularly for industrial, food, cosmetic, technical, or horticultural purposes,” there will be no need to obtain permission or a license from a state authority to handle industrial hemp or its plants, for their cultivation, export, or import, and there is no need to dispose of technical hemp waste as hazardous waste. A certain safeguard for monitoring large cultivators is § 29b. It stipulates special reporting obligations for individuals cultivating industrial hemp on an area larger than 100 m2.
Cannabis for medicinal use
One of the main changes consists in a change in the way entities that will be allowed to grow cannabis plants for medicinal use will be designated. Only a legal entity or an entrepreneurial natural person who holds a licence from the State Institute for Drug Control (SÚKL) and who is also a holder of a permit to handle addictive substances and preparations issued by the Ministry of Health may continue to cultivate these plants.
However, the change concerns the principles of licensing. Whereas the previous system was based on the selection of the SACL through a tendering procedure and the designation of a certain area for cultivation, the new system is based on market principles and competition between growers. The legislators expect such a change to reduce the price of medical cannabis in particular.
Amendment and practice
In connection with the new definition of terms, Mojmír Ježek mentions as one of the main practical impacts of the amendment that “farmers or gardeners cultivating cannabis plants for purposes other than the use of their intoxicating effects on the human body will therefore no longer have to prove that the THC content of any of them has not exceeded the legal limit, but it should be sufficient to prove the origin of the plants used (i.e. that they come from seeds of varieties listed in the European catalogue in question).”
As regards the maximum permissible THC content, he assesses the practical implications as follows: “The measure should again provide relief, particularly for the aforementioned farmers and gardeners who are unable to influence the THC levels in cannabis plants, which in good weather often exceed 0.3% THC through no fault of their own.”