Industrial Hemp Growers Interested in Medical Marijuana Cultivation

By 5 October 2015

Legal marijuana soon to be available in Croatia?

As early as mid-October, doctors in Croatia could theoretically begin to prescribe to patients medicines which contain active substance of hemp (Cannabis Sativa), after the Regulations on Medical Marijuana come into force, reports Slobodna Dalmacija on October 5, 2015. Although it is still possible that the final version of the Regulations will include comments received during the public consultation period, it is certain that the Regulations are now very close to being implemented. They stipulate that medicines containing the active substances of THC, dronabinol and nabilone, may be prescribed to relieve the symptoms of multiple sclerosis, cancer, epilepsy and AIDS, following a recommendation by specialists in neurology, medical oncology and radiation therapy, infectious diseases specialists and pediatricians. Drugs containing THC can be prescribed in the quantities necessary for treatments up to 30 days, and the total amount of prescribed THC in 30 days of treatment must not be – for now – greater than 0.75 grams.

Sources close to the Health Ministry claim that the raw materials and the extract of hemp will be imported. That decision is quite understandable, at least at the beginning. However, there are people in Croatia who are interested in the cultivation of medical marijuana and who already cultivate the so-called industrial hemp with low levels of THC. Its cultivation was once an important industry in Croatia, before it was prohibited. The cultivation was once again allowed in 2012, and currently the industrial hemp covers approximately 1,700 hectares. According to Josip Plavec, owner of HerbioPlus from Velika Gorica and the biggest producer in Croatia, that is ten times more than in 2012, which positions Croatia at the very top of Europe.

"There are more than 20,000 products that are made from hemp, which cover dozens of industries – from construction to paper and textile industries. Our climate is very suitable for its cultivation, better than elsewhere", said Plavec. He added that foreign investors have already noticed that and many of them have visited Croatia and Serbia, but the laws are hindering further investments. Plavec and others would also like to cultivate cannabis for medical purposes. "If the laws are adapted, we are ready to produce and develop farming technology and standards for pharmaceutical purposes. Theoretically, 'Croatian' medical hemp could be ready within three months." But, cultivation itself is the easiest part, there are also administrative issues, certification, control, etc. Plavec added that these are just the first steps which should lead to the authorization of cultivation of marijuana for recreational purposes as well, which could further lead to economic upturn, including in tourism.

Other manufacturers of industrial hemp share his views. The Kalić family from Đakovo, which is producing oil, flour and protein powder from hemp, say they are in general interested in the cultivation of cannabis and are ready to invest in the operation which would include very strict security and rigorous controls. However, they are skeptical, because they believe that small producers would not be able to find their place in the market.

One of possible producers of medical marijuana in Croatia could be the Institute of Immunology, which has recently become a public institution owned by the state, since it fulfils all the legal requirements to do the job.