In the scenic isle of Jersey, a unique, eco-friendly business is navigating a storm of bureaucratic hurdles that threaten its very existence. At the eye of this storm stands Jersey Hemp, a fully vertical producer of hemp products.
The Natural Halo sat down with Craig Dempster, Commercial Director. Craig recounts the inspiring birth, growth, and alarming challenges faced by Jersey Hemp in a candid interview that paints a heartfelt picture of a business fighting for survival.
Jersey Hemp was founded in 2017 by a couple of serving firefighters. They had discovered the fire-resistant properties of hempcrete during a fire retardants course, sparking a journey of entrepreneurship.
In Jersey, the firefighters found a receptive government promoting sustainable farming. They embarked on a pioneering journey, growing hemp in a hidden acre of land – a stipulation of their initial licence.
Year by year, they expanded their operation, including obtaining a licence to harvest the hemp flower for CBD extraction despite it being a controlled substance due to its resemblance to high THC cannabis.
“We invested in a laboratory, trained people,” Dempster elaborates. “Everything in our bottle was cultivated by us, with full traceability, great provenance,” he continues, their ambitious goal clear – complete self-sufficiency.
In an industry grappling with authenticity, Jersey Hemp hoped its dedication to home-grown quality would make it stand out.
But these dreams have been interrupted by a significant legal wrangle. An exemption, vital for the industry’s survival, has been disputed, leading the Jersey Hemp products to be banned from being exported to the UK.
“So that’s the clause that the whole industry relies on,” explains Dempster, hinting at the profound implications this dispute could have across the sector.
The Home Office urged the Jersey government to limit Jersey Hemp’s licence, restricting its ability to ship wellness products to the UK – its most prominent market.
Dempster’s voice is tinged with disbelief as he discusses the irony, “we’re the only British producer…and we have the only business presently that has been excluded from a multi-million-pound industry.”
The press release Jersey Hemp published states exactly this quandary:
“The directive unfairly singles out Jersey Hemp, excluding them from importing their products into the UK market, while allowing non-licensed CBD products from around the world to freely enter the UK market (as all CBD products are imported into the UK).”
The situation has already caused significant disruption. “We’re in Tesco, we’re on Amazon, and now we’ve got to remove it,” he reveals.
The possible domino effect on the CBD market is sobering. Retailers may decide to stop selling CBD products altogether rather than risk legal implications.
Dempster recounts their struggles with the Home Office since 2021, highlighting a shift from seeking permissions to import CBD in larger quantities to their current predicament.
The Jersey government, despite being aware of the situation, has offered little more than sympathetic words. “They’re toothless… As it turns out, they’re just a tail on the end of a Home Office,” he laments.
The struggle isn’t just regulatory however; it has deeply personal implications for the Jersey Hemp team.
Dempster recounts how they’ve had to make staff redundant due to the harsh realities’ “96% of our income… has been suspended, stopped. We had to act… we’re heading for insolvency unless we can do something quite miraculously. It’s been devastating.”
Despite facing job loss, the employees were more distressed over the potential downfall of the business they loved. “They were so upset about the business rather than their individual [situations]… it was quite touching,” he shares.
Jersey Hemp had worked tirelessly to get their products listed with major retailers, like Amazon and Tesco, only to have those relationships severed overnight. “Our main revenue stream has just been hacked off at the feet,” he says,
Moving forward, Jersey Hemp intends to continue their fight against the licence ban, demonstrating resilience and a commitment to their cause. “We’re talking to the industry associations such as The Association for the Cannabinoid Industry (ACI), making sure they’re aware of it. They’re contacting their members. We think it will become a huge industry issue,” Dempster states.
They are also keen on raising the profile of the issue and are considering legal action against the Jersey government as well as the Home Office.
Despite the challenges, they remain steadfast in their belief that this situation can be resolved.
Their struggles and proactive efforts underscore the battle that not just Jersey Hemp, but many in the cannabis and CBD industry are facing, signalling the importance of a more nuanced understanding and approach towards the industry’s regulatory landscape.