A Croatian hemp producer is challenging the interpretation used by law enforcement to oppose the sale of hemp flower in the country.
Tvrtko Kračun (pictured), founder and CEO of cannabis retail chain Hemps.hr, has been raided by the police several times and fined for selling hemp flower. Kračun said the law is unclear and being unfairly applied.
Amendments made to the Drug Abuse Act that came into force in 2019 permit the use of the entire industrial hemp plant, including flowers. Pure CBD is not regulated as a substance under the Croatian drug regime, and products derived from hemp should be legal if THC levels are below 0.2%.
But Kračun said there is no information on how to sell them in a legitimate way. “In Croatia, the growing and selling of all parts of the hemp plant is legal, but there are no guidelines on how to sell the flowers and in which category this product belongs. Some shops are selling flowers as a souvenir; in our shop we sell them as potpourri, for example,” he said.
When Kračun’s shops were raided, the police confiscated stock, including flowers and CBD tea. He was issued a fine of €10,000, which the judge subsequently reduced to €1,000 to cover the legal expenses.
Kračun said that the same brand of tea was still sitting on the shelves of various supermarkets in Croatia, and flowers were being sold throughout the country.
“The judge was laughing and questioning the police’s motivation because if you can buy cannabis tea in supermarkets in Croatia, why are the police confiscating it from our shops?” said Kračun. “The police took the regulations literally and confiscated our tea because they viewed it as food.”
Enforcement seen as unfair to smaller businesses
Hemp flower tea would likely be considered an ingestible item containing CBD – thus requiring novel food approval before it is placed on the market, according to the opinion of the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA), though this has not been tested in court.
Kračun said that this enforcement action was not being levelly applied and that, while his shop and others like it were being raided, enforcement authorities were ignoring similar products on sale in larger supermarkets.
“Several of my colleagues who run small cannabis businesses have also been raided and fined,” Kračun said. “They are not raiding big market chains who also sell cannabis products. It’s not fair – because it’s stopping the small businesses from growing. The rules should be the same for everyone.”
After his shops were raided, Kračun subsequently decided to open a cannabis “museum” and shop in a bid to to teach the public as well as the authorities about hemp and cannabis. “This is also our way to fight – to educate not just the people but the government,” he said.
He opened the Cannabis Museum Zagreb across the road from the main police station in the city in January 2022. He said he’d made several calls to the government powers that be in a bid to engage them in his education programme, which is designed to talk about the dangers as well as the benefits of cannabis.
The response to his calls was another raid by police on 10th May 2022, and several of his hemp products, including flowers and teas, were confiscated.
“Since we have 30 different strains of hemp flower, six or seven of them contained THC that went above 0.2%,” he said. Kračun complained that these were barely over – 0.34% THC, for example – but authorities said the law states hemp products must be under 0.2% THC to comply with Croatian drug laws, and products that contain CBD (such as hemp teas) cannot be sold as ingestible items without novel food authorisation.
A hopeful future through education and innovation
Kračun also said police were using their own lab and methods to test confiscated stock and refusing to look at testing reports he had secured from the government-registered laboratory he uses which provide more detailed analysis. Further analysis and breakdown of the THC content could be crucial.
“The results from the lab the police force uses don’t come in the format of a table, as a professional lab would provide, so they don’t give the full detail of the analysis,” he told CBD-Intel. “This isn’t a fair way to build evidence because it means that the case boils down to my results against theirs. We should be using the same lab.”
Kračun is awaiting a court date and news on a fine over the raid. If the court case does not go in his favour, he plans to appeal.
In a strange twist of fate, while waiting for the court date, Kračun had to file a police report with the same station that raided his business after the museum shop was robbed. He said thousands of euros’ worth of flowers were taken.
“It’s been a very painful process, but I’m still doing business,” he said. “The museum is a great platform for educating people about the benefits of cannabis, and I love promoting it and talking with people about it – it’s all in a good cause.”
Kračun has plans to franchise the museum outside Croatia. He’s already in talks with potential business partners in Italy and also has his eye on the US and Canadian markets, where he thinks he can add value.
“People are very into opening shops to sell cannabis, but a lot of people are growing their own plants at home now as a hobby, so there’s a need for education out there.”
- Tvrtko Kračun will be showcasing his cannabis museum at the Cultiva Hemp Expo from 7th to 9th October at the Marx Halle in Vienna.
– Lorraine Mullaney CBD-Intel staff