CBD and THC in Latvia
The legal situation of the hemp sector, especially CBD and THC in Latvia, is not clear. On the one hand, Latvia respects community regulations on hemp, while on the other hand, the CBD industry still operates in a gray zone. The high popularity of marijuana use among citizens is also not matched by the law. It is quite restrictive in places, and sometimes surprisingly liberal. What is the situation for hemp companies, consumers of CBD products and medical marijuana patients in Latvia? See the rest of the article for more information.
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Hemp market (CBD and THC) in Latvia
Hemp is one of Latvians’ unofficial favorite stimulants. Under the Soviet Union, Latvia had a fairly liberal approach to cannabis possession and smoking – only smuggling was punishable. Since regaining independence, the popularity of cannabis has been growing every year, but unfortunately this hasn’t quite been matched by a change in the law. The CBD hemp industry, which developed in Europe after 2015, exists in a kind of gray zone in Latvia. Growing fiber hemp is possible in the country, but only after obtaining the proper permits. However, Latvian farmers are not allowed to extract cannabinoids from hemp plants, which means that all processing must take place outside the country.
CBD products can be purchased here both online and in selected stationary stores. There are some restrictions on the marketing of oils or foods with cannabidiol, The most important one is the limit of the psychoactive substance contained in hemp – THC, which by law cannot exceed 0.2%. This stems from an EU regulation. In contrast, on domestic grounds, the regulations are not clearly formulated, which in practice can mean that no amount of THC is allowed for use in food. This is due to the classification of tetrahydrocannabinol as a specifically prohibited Group I narcotic by the Ministry of Social Welfare.
Is CBD legal in Latvia?
The legal situation of CBD is not clear in Latvia. Most producers and processors who offer theoretically legal products may have legal problems. At issue is the statutory THC limit set by the European Commission at 0.2%, which Latvia is expected to ratify. However, there are no clear national regulations defining this limit. On the other hand, both the cultivation of industrial hemp, which contains trace amounts of THC, and the sale and possession of CBD are not prohibited by law. As a member of the EU, Latvia is obliged to respect the 2020 EU Court ruling that states that CBD and products with it are not drugs. Hemp products, by the way, are quite popular. CBD oils, ointments, cosmetics and sweets or snacks with hemp seeds can be purchased in hemp or health food stores. So are teas or food products made from fiber hemp seeds. Nevertheless, the classification of THC as a Schedule I prohibited substance complicates the situation for the CBD industry. In light of the stipulation, products containing even just trace amounts of the intoxicating substance could be considered illegal.
Is THC legal in Latvia?
Despite the rather high popularity of cannabis use, it is not legal in Latvia. Possession and recreational consumption of cannabis is prohibited by law and punishable. However, the penalties are quite lenient compared to other European countries. If you possess small amounts for personal use (up to 1 gram) of marijuana or hashish, it is classified as an administrative offense and punishable by a fine of up to 280 euros. In some cases you can also get a warning, especially if it is the first time. For subsequent offenses, criminal liability applies. Then a person can face up to years of imprisonment. Trafficking, distribution, cultivation and storage of larger quantities of marijuana, carry prison sentences, in some cases up to 15 years.
Interestingly, according to a multi-year study by the Latvian National Focal Point, marijuana is one of the most popular illegal stimulants among Latvian residents. Since 2007, the survey has shown the growing popularity of cannabis use among those aged 15-65. About 12% have had contact with the substance. In the following years, this rate was increasingly higher, while in the case of the 15-34 age group, it exceeded 20% of those surveyed.
Medical marijuana treatment in Latvia
The situation for medical cannabis patients in Latvia is not enviable. The legislation has zero tolerance for the use of THC in any form, including as a medicine. Currently, Latvia, as one of the few community countries, still does not have a legal medical marijuana treatment program for its citizens. Those suffering from serious neurological conditions or cancer can only rely on CBD oils or the complicated procedure of importing the marijuana drug from abroad. However, this is a rarely used procedure, on top of which the treatment is then many times more expensive.
The ruthless approach to medical marijuana is due to the Ministry of Social Welfare’s classification of tetrahydrocannabinol as the most dangerous and particularly intoxicating class I narcotic substance. This means that cannabis is in the same group as heroin or methamphetamine. THC’s location in a Schedule I group also means that the substance has no recognized medical use. The legal system treats patients illegally treated with cannabis somewhat more leniently. Those without a prior conviction receive a lighter, conditional sentence.
Summary – CBD and THC in Latvia
The CBD and THC market in Latvia is full of paradoxes and ambiguities. The country has some history of cannabis use; back in the days of the USSR, cannabis use was not criminalized at all. Nowadays, residents are eager to use cannabis as a stimulant, with more than 20% of young people aged 15-34 declaring in 2007 that they had regular contact with the substance. Currently, this value may be higher. However, this fact has not affected changes on the legal side, as THC is a Class I dangerous substance in Latvia. This means that the Ministry of Social Welfare has recognized tetrahydrocannabinol as one of the most dangerous and particularly intoxicating narcotic substances, placing it right next to heroin or methamphetamine. This fact determines the strict interpretations of the hemp law established by the European Union, is a cause of ambiguity and affects the entire industry, including the CBD and medical marijuana market.
As a rule, each EU community country is required to recognize the legality of CBD as a substance and allow its use in food. Hemp companies in Latvia operate legally, however, if their products contain even trace amounts of THC, they may be classified as illegal. For this reason, many hemp producers operate in the so-called gray zone.
The consequence of THC’s inclusion in the No. 1 list of narcotic substances is the plight of medical marijuana patients. Latvia currently has no legal medical marijuana treatment program, and nothing promises that this will change in the near future. Patients have no access to THC-rich cannabis and can only rely on store-bought CBD oils. Attempting illegal cannabis treatment and cultivation could end in conflict with the law and even imprisonment. Only first-time offenders who commit the crime of marijuana possession can expect a warning or a fine. Then it is classified as an administrative offense. Any subsequent offenses will result in criminal liability and a prison sentence of up to 15 years.