Hemp plants in an outdoor field

How Many Hemp Licenses Were Active In The United Kingdom In 2023?

The global hemp industry is far from being a new thing. For many centuries humans have used the hemp plant to make a number of things, from medicine to textiles. It wasn’t until the 1900s that hemp started to be prohibited by governments due to the forces of special interest groups.

Thankfully, the global hemp industry is now being embraced in many parts of the world instead of being prohibited, and the United Kingdom is one jurisdiction that is increasingly focusing on boosting its domestic hemp industry. That is evidenced by recently approved changes in the UK that are geared toward boosting the nation’s hemp industry.

According to the United Kingdom government, the number of hemp licenses in the UK has increased from six licenses in 2013 to 136 in 2023. A first-time hemp license in the United Kingdom costs £580, and the license is valid for three hemp cultivation seasons. Hemp producers who apply for subsequent licenses pay £326, or less than £109 per year.

“Under the planned changes, licence holders will be able to grow hemp anywhere on a licensed farm and the maximum period for a licence will be extended from three to six years, subject to compliance with the terms of the licence.” the United Kingdom’s government stated on its website announcing upcoming changes.

From a purely scientific standpoint, hemp is cannabis, which is why many civilizations have often referred to all cannabis as ‘hemp.’ However, in recent years many governments around the globe have created policies and rules that distinguish hemp from non-hemp cannabis, with THC content being the separating criteria.

Currently in the UK, cannabis harvests that contain .2% or lower THC content are considered to be hemp. Above the .2% THC threshold is non-hemp.

The changes will go into effect in 2025, in time for the United Kingdom’s hemp planting season. The nation’s leaders have also asked the Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs to advise on whether the threshold for permissible THC levels in industrial hemp in the UK could be raised to 0.3%. The U.S. has adopted a .3% threshold, and many European nations have thresholds as high as 1% THC content.

“This government will always seek to reduce unnecessary regulatory burdens placed on businesses so that they can flourish and grow.” stated Chris Philp, Minister for Crime and Policing about the upcoming changes. “The changes outlined today will help farmers and manufacturers in the UK to fully realise the economic potential offered through the safe and legal cultivation of hemp.”

“Industrial hemp has huge potential across the UK to unlock new revenue streams, expand our bioeconomy without permanently removing land from food production, and bring wider environmental benefits.” stated UK Farming Minister Mark Spencer about the changes.

“The licensing changes announced today recognise industrial hemp as a field-grown agricultural crop and will enable more farmers to add hemp to their crop rotations, sequester carbon, and sell their harvest to the textile and construction industries.” he also stated.

A recent global hemp fiber market projection by researchers at Kings Research, which found that, “the global Hemp Fiber Market revenue was recorded at USD 7.55 billion in 2022 and is anticipated to grow to USD 73.55 billion by 2030, exhibiting a 33.57% CAGR over the forecast period.”

Over the years, the hemp plant has become increasingly used for other purposes beyond making fiber, with the creation of cannabidiol (CBD) products being a very notable use. Many hemp varieties are very rich in CBD, and the rise in demand for CBD products has largely transformed the hemp industry.