Friends of Cannabis up in arms over jailing of hemp farmer for possession (Updated)
A local cannabis pressure group reacted strongly to the jailing on Wednesday of the first licensed industrial cannabis (hemp) farmer saying the product was legally imported, legal throughout the EU and legal in Cyprus. “They have imprisoned a man who days ago started to cultivate the first licensed, registered and legitimate hemp plantation in Cyprus for having in his possession an amount of hemp he bought and imported,” the Friends of Cannabis said in a statement issued after the conviction. “In other words the farmer had in his possession exactly the same product he is producing in his plantation with a licence from the government.” Photis Andreou, 36, and a Crohn’s disease sufferer was jailed for five months on Tuesday by Larnaca court after it rejected his claim that he used the drug to alleviate the symptoms of his ailment. Andreou told the court he had imported what he termed as cannabis tea to treat his affliction. Describing the cannabis as industrial, his defence asked the court to take into account the relevant law (Production and Marketing of Industrial Hemp Act 2016) The court refused to accept that the 66 grammes of cannabis was for therapeutic or industrial purposes and found Andreou guilty of importing the drug with intent to supply as well as producing a solid green substance from herbal cannabis. Friends of Cannabis also maintained that what was in Andreou’s possession was useless for recreational or illegal use due to the low content of THC, the active psychotropic substance that gives users their high. “Smoking a truckload will have no euphoric affect or recreational value and no processing would make it suitable for illegal commerce,” the group’s statement said. Andreou was originally arrested in May 2015 along with others in a field full of hemp in Avgorou. They, and the person who provided them with the seeds were arrested and their plants, some 1,600 of them, were destroyed by the drug squad YKAN. Charges were dropped after the farmers threatened to sue the government if their names were not cleared. They said they had a purchase certificate for the seeds, claiming that they were indeed hemp, and they also had a bill from Cyprus Agricultural Payments Organisation for a lab analysis on the seeds. The EU encourages the growing of hemp through subsidies, with the crop being used for clothing, biofuel, animal food and other products.