Jersey Hemp wins first legal clash

Dave Ryan and Blair Jones, co-founders of Jersey Hemp. Picture: JON GUEGAN. (36605664)

JERSEY Hemp has won the first clash of its legal battle with the UK and Jersey governments over a Home Office ruling which forced the company to close – and could lead to all CBD products being banned in the UK.

The case has sent shockwaves through Britain’s £690 million cannabidiol industry, which has launched an urgent ‘Save our CBD’ campaign.

The company has been granted leave by a High Court judge in London to seek a judicial review of the decision. It has previously said that it is considering suing both the UK and Island governments in what are expected to be multi-million-pound legal actions.

Jersey Hemp turned to the courts after civil servants in Whitehall decided that its CBD products were illegal, preventing it from exporting them to the UK.

It has now been granted the judicial review in the UK High Court of Justice, which enables it to challenge the decision.

Lawyers for the Home Office did not contest two of the three grounds put forward by Jersey Hemp, but did argue against the Warwick Farm-based company’s claim for damages. The judge found that all three grounds for a judicial review put forward by Jersey Hemp were ‘arguable’.

The Jersey government was listed as ‘an interested party’ in the proceedings and, contrary to the Home Office’s position, argued that Jersey Hemp should be refused permission to seek a review. The judge threw out their arguments.

The Association for the Cannabinoid Industry is calling for the Home Office to establish a clear legal framework for CBD products as part of the ‘Save Our CBD’ campaign.

Jersey Hemp director Craig Dempster said the company was told its product was banned because it contained THC, the main psychoactive ingredient in cannabis – even though the level had been proven to be within legal parameters.

‘We challenged that decision at the time, we challenged it previously and we are challenging it now through a judicial review.

‘We have had a response from the courts and it is very clear that the courts have decided that we have a case to answer,’ he explained.

However, he noted that if the Home Office won, the ruling would ‘immediately define CBD as a controlled substance’.

He warned that such a result would ‘finish’ the UK CBD industry, which was estimated to have generated around £690 million in sales in 2021.

‘If this issue blows up, all of the card [payment processing] providers will withdraw. Secondly, Boots the chemist – who are probably one of the biggest retailers of CBD oil – will no longer stock products that they have had clear indication are a controlled substance. So the shelves will be cleared and returned to suppliers, that will spread and suddenly there will be no industry,’ he said.

The declaration on the Save our CBD website states that: ‘We understand the complexities the Home Office must navigate concerning compliance with the Misuse of Drugs Act. Nevertheless, we strongly assert that businesses have conducted themselves in a socially responsible way throughout this period. Therefore, we firmly believe there is no valid reason why the Home Office cannot provide the much-needed legal clarity the industry urgently seeks.

‘We invite the Home Office to address this issue as a matter of urgency.’

It also states that ‘recent actions taken by the Home Office against an established CBD company have highlighted the vulnerability of all businesses operating in this sector’.

Mr Dempster said the campaign was a ‘direct consequence of what has happened to Jersey Hemp’.

‘They recognise the threat to the industry,’ he added.

Mr Dempster has previously said the company is also likely to seek ‘multi-millions’ in damages.