Is The UK Missing Out On A £500 Million Hemp Flower Industry?

A new study has declared that Italy is losing out on a potential half-billion euro industry by failing to establish proper rules for smokable hemp. 

In the UK, which has a slightly larger population (67 million compared to 60 million) and an already flourishing CBD market, it can be assumed that our outdated hemp laws are also causing us to miss out on a similar size boost to the economy. 

Double up

The study, conducted by Italian hemp business website Canapa Industriale and reported on by HempToday, claims that the current market in Italy could double from €200-400 million to €400-€600 million if enlightened laws and regulations were applied to the smokable hemp industry. 

It would also lead to the creation of thousands of jobs, increased tax revenue, and make the industry safer for consumers. 

“Decades of prohibition have created gray areas and a double track of legal and illegal hemp in the current legislation,” the authors of the study write.

Along with calling for progressive legal framework for the sale of smokable hemp, the authors of the study also suggest removing obstacles to research and innovation in order to allow the industry to flourish.

Smokable hemp in Italy 

Italy used to be the second biggest grower of hemp in the world until it was outlawed in the 1940s. It was only in 2016, when hemp was re-legalised, that a grey market for smokable hemp flower (or ‘cannabis light’) first appeared.

Since then, Italian authorities have made attempts to outlaw its sale despite the fledgling industry disrupting the cannabis black market to the tune of over €200 million.

Interestingly, one study also found that the widespread availability of CBD flower in Italy led to a significant reduction in the number of prescription drugs dispensed by the country’s National Health Service.

UK hemp laws

Here in the UK, our hemp laws are terribly outdated and unfit to cover what is a fast-growing domestic hemp and CBD industry.

While it is legal to grow hemp in the UK, you’ll need to jump through many regulatory hoops and have large financial backing in order to secure a licence from the Home Office. 

Even if you do acquire a licence to grow hemp, you’ll only be allowed to make use of the stalk and seed – the flowers (where cannabinoids like CBD are produced) will need to be disposed of. 

Bizarrely, however, CBD and other non-intoxicating cannabinoids are legal in the UK and can be imported from other countries. Therefore, the UK’s blooming CBD market – currently valued around £300million – is all sourced from outside the UK despite hemp being legal to grow here. Silly, right?

Hemp flower in the UK

No doubt about it, this is a ridiculous situation that sees the UK lag behind in an already sizable industry that has potential to carry on growing.

While UK hemp laws are baffling and seem to prohibit hemp flower being sold in the UK, many believe that there are ways of selling it legally – these include marketing it as tea and ensuring it is an EU-approved variety with negligible concentrations of THC.

This has led to a number of online and physical shops selling high-grade hemp flower over recent years. And although there have been a few prosecutions and shipments are often confiscated, a number of established vendors have been operating well out in the open with little interference from the authorities for some time. 


Our current hemp laws are outdated and untidy. The UK stands to benefit immensely from a fully legal and regulated hemp flower industry. Just like they are in Switzerland, Belgium and the U.S, to name but a few. 

We would also be able to produce other CBD products domestically, which would see a lot more value kept within our own economy. 

Let us hope that common sense prevails in due course. 

Read: 10 Reasons Why The UK Should Have A Regulated Hemp Flower Industry

Read: A Quick History Of Smokable Hemp Flower In The UK

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