How hemp quietly became legal in Belgium thanks to its ‘unique’ situation

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A legal loophole that allowed Belgium to enjoy hemp flowers for the past year and a half has led to the legalization of the product — and other countries are following suit.

Once budding entrepreneurs realized that there was no law forbidding them from selling hemp products — as long as they contained less than O.2 percent THC — hundreds of shops popped up across the country, providing access to a wide range of products.

Once the country’s finance department realized the potential for profit, however, it quickly legalized dried hemp flower, classified it as a tobacco product and taxed it at 31.5 percent in addition to a 21 percent value-added tax.

Hemp products can now be sold wherever tobacco is, opening up over 100,000 new potential points of sale.

“The current situation in Belgium is quite unique in Europe,” said Ugo Lemaire, CEO of the import and distribution company, Buddy Brussels. “Dried hemp flowers are now considered as ‘another tobacco for smoking,’ while edible products that contain CBD remain forbidden. It is the opposite situation in the U.K., in Germany and in The Netherlands, where flowers are forbidden and [edibles are] more or less legal,” Lemaire said.

The move quietly made Belgium the only country in the European Union with a legal framework governing dried cannabis flowers. Luxembourg plans to adopt the same model before the end of the year.

“We anticipate that the rest of Europe will go in the same direction, which is a huge opportunity for us,” Lemaire noted. “We are still waiting for a harmonization of legislative frameworks across EU state members, and a clarification on the edibles to be able to make long-term partnerships with foreign actors. The tobacco manufacturers outside of Benelux aren’t really paying attention to CBD flowers now, as this whole context is still unclear,” he said.

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