Hopes Brewing in Gautavík for Hemp Tea

Farmers in the village of Gautavík in East Iceland plan to grow industrial hemp crops this summer and hope to produce hemp tea that could hit the local market as soon as this fall, Bændablaðið reports.

Recent changes to previous law governing the cultivation of industrial hemp mean that farmers can legally start cultivating the crop for use in a wide variety of non-narcotic products. (Industrial hemp contains very little THC, the primary psychoactive compound in marijuana, and cannot be consumed as a drug.) Gautavík farmers have already produced fire-resistant concrete and fibreboard using industrial hemp that was harvested last summer; they have also experimented making hemp salt.

“The Minister of Health’s changes to regulations mean that anyone, both farmers and others, can legally begin cultivating industrial hemp,” industrial designer and farmer Pálmi Einarsson remarked. Pálmi said that local farmers plan to start small and will cultivate just over a hectare [2.5 acres] of industrial hemp this summer.

“We will use the same varieties that we did last summer,” continued Pálmi. “‘Finola,’ ‘Felina,’ and ‘Futura,’ and we have plenty of seeds from last year but will also be experimenting with other kinds.” The farmers hope to identify varieties of hemp that will respond particularly well to Icelandic weather conditions.

Nearly endless possibilities

“Our next step is to develop methods for fully utilize the harvest and it’s our aim to put some products on the market in the fall, for instance, hemp tea,” explained Pálmi. “We’ve set up a 75 square metre indoor area for experimental cultivation and have an area of the same size for processing. But this requires devices and tools and part of the process is to invest in a hulling machine that will separate the fibres from the seeds.”

As with any crop, said Pálmi, it’s important that farmers know what they plan to use it for before they produce a great deal of it, so that none goes to waste and prices remain stable.

The tea that the farmers are producing is made from dried hemp flowers and leaves, while the hemp salt has been made with sea salt collected around the village of Djúpavogur. Hemp, said Pálmi, has been identified as a health product and the farmers have already been enjoying the benefits of their crops. “We drink the tea for its health benefits and use the hemp salt in our cooking at home.”

Pálmi says that the possibilities for the products that can be produced from this crop are almost endless. “Through the ages, hemp was commonly used as animal feed…” Indeed, local farmers fed their sheep a little of last summer’s hemp crop “and they liked it a lot.” Hemp can also be used to feed Arctic char and the farmers have experimented with further utlizations that include using the byproducts of fish fed on hemp to grow vegetables.

Nearly a decade ago, hemp was also used to produce biodiesel at the University of Akureyri, Pámi continues and that’s something else the Gautavík farmers are eager to try.

Icelandic Police Drop Charges Against Hemp Farmers

hemp farming Iceland

Police have dropped charges against farmers in Gautavík, East Iceland who are cultivating industrial hemp, RÚV reports. The plant is derived from a strain of Cannabis sativa, which contains low concentrations of THC, the primary psychoactive compound in marijuana. As such, the crops were reported to police by the Icelandic Medicines Agency as being in violation of current law. Following an investigation, however, police elected to drop charges and it’s likely that the government will soon remove legal barriers to hemp production, thereby allowing farmers to produce hemp for use in a range of products, such as fibreboard and eco-friendly concrete.

Farmers received a government grant

After being notified of the crops, authorities took samples and tested them for THC. No active THC was found in the plants; industrial hemp contains very little THC and cannot be consumed as a drug. However, current law bans the production of any plant containing any traces of the compound.

The farmers from Gautavík are not the first to have their industrial hemp crop questioned by the Medicines Agency. Another farmer was told that cultivating the crop was in violation of Icelandic narcotics law in 2013. However, in a letter police wrote detailing the conclusion of their current investigation, they affirmed that in this instance, the Gautavík farmers had received permission from the Icelandic Food and Veterinary Authority (MAST) to import 75 kilos of hemp seeds and that the shipment had gone through customs without comment. Police also point out that the farmers received a processing grant of ISK 700,000 ($4,846/€4,503) from the Ministry of Industries and Innovation to support their efforts. In light of the inconsistencies with which the law has been enforced, police concluded that it was unlikely that the hemp farmers would be convicted if the case went to court and elected to drop the charges.

Hemp fibreboard, hemp concrete, hemp salt, hemp tea

Food and agriculture consultant Oddný Anna Björnsdóttir is one of the farmers cultivating industrial hemp in Gautavík and says that she will continue to do so. “We’ve already produced fibreboard from the industrial hemp that we harvested last summer and used it to make giftware. Likewise fire-resistant hemp concrete, and we’ve also experimented with making hemp salt and hemp tea. So there are many possibilities for making valuable products out of this raw material.”

Based on the Icelandic Medicines Agency’s current stance on industrial hemp, it’s uncertain as to whether farmers will be allowed to import hemp seeds again this summer. However, the government recently announced that the Ministry of Industry and Innovation and the Ministry of Health intend to work together to make provisions for the legal cultivation of industrial hemp.