Interview with Gianpaolo Grassi, first researcher of the Rovigo Hemp Research Center and member of the Federcanapa Scientific Committee

What does 2020 look like for the Cannabis sector in Italy? The year started with a severe health emergency, a pandemic carrying the name Covid19; from your point of view, can this affect the agricultural season to some degree?

The agricultural sector is one of the most penalised by the pandemic. The personnel employed for harvesting coming from foreign countries are not free to move and as a consequence many seasonal products cannot be picked.

Hemp hasn’t suffered much, as it is often cultivated and handled internally and for the industrial processing of it there are machines which substitute human intervention.

Also the consumption is generally increasing, or at least that of cannabis light is increasing, because its most important competitor is lacking, which is cannabis with high THC contents. This latter type of hemp is not circulating as before, due to the constant presence of public security checkpoints, hence the regular products containing cannabis light are more available and distributable.  

More and more agriculturists are considering Hemp as an alternative opportunity in which to invest their resources, which are your suggestions for a first approach to the cultivation of Hemp? Is there a sector which is more attractive than others?  

I feel that farmers should measure their own forces and act in the same way as with the other products, such as wine and oil. Quality is the main parameter determining the sustainability of a production.

According to the production scale an agriculturist can aspire to, he or she should tend to produce with the highest quality standards and execute at least the first processing phases in order to make his/her base product distinguishable and valorised.

Planting hemp seeds and selling what is harvested at the end of the season will most unlikely be able to offer a higher income than any other agricultural production.

To complicate things further is the lack of a market and of fixed prices which actually represent the request of the consumers. Also launching the distribution and sales in person via internet could be a way, but it would be necessary to find distinctive elements which are of a higher quality than the larger part of similar products present on the market.   

From your point of view, will there be cultivated more or less Cannabis in Italy in 2020? And how can this trend be interpreted?

I believe that the lands will remain more or less the same as those of the past two or three years.

The level of specialisation might go up, the concentrations of the active principles which are of main market interest could increase and the varieties will gradually be modified, in order to make the final prices increasingly competitive and as much as possible comparable to those of countries across the Atlantic.

Our strong point is the environment and the fact that the product is Made in Italy.   

In Italy, for years now, we are witnessing a consistent comeback of Hemp cultivation. This includes the processing of flowers as well as that of hemp for extraction, up to food products. FederCanapa (tn. Italian hemp association), in several occasions, has requested politics more support in terms of regulations and legislation. According to you, which are the first aspects in which to intervene in order to safeguard and support the enterprises?

Frankness and practicality characterise me! The first point would be replacing the executives of the various Ministries who have not been able to implement the hemp production chain. I’m almost certain that, ironically, almost all of them reach the agreed objectives and receive a production bonus (absurd).

First of all I would introduce a real spoiling system while the minister should have collaborators and executives who actually put the political orientation of the Ministry itself into practice. This is most necessary in the Ministry of  Agriculture and immediately following in the Ministry of Health. 

Politics should rapidly find solutions allowing the agricultural sector to proceed without uncertainties or doubts regarding to what one can be produced. The lack of indications and the absence of programming with a vision of medium or long term prospective is something that has been missing for years now. 

Due to COVID19, Italy will live a phase of economic uncertainty, which will require courageous choices; has the moment arrived to invest in the legalisation of Cannabis tout court?

I am not convinced this is the best choice. Eliminating each and every rule regarding the management of cannabis would allow criminal organisations to operate freely and openly. Italy would become like Albania or become a European Columbia and would distribute Cannabis on all those markets on which the prices are more profitable.

This money flow would then be reinvested in illicit activities or even worse, laundered through legitimate activities, causing a very strong competition towards honest companies supported by regular entrepreneurs.

According to my opinion, cannabis should be managed in the same way as tobacco is, avoiding peremptorily that the gains get into the hands of foreign multinationals and ensure that the profits recovered by the State through excise duties are totally utilised in prevention, agricultural and industrial recovery and development.