Green light for hemp trial plots


Cultivation of trial plots of industrial hemp will be allowed under strict Government guidelines.

Health Minister Annette King said the decision followed a year-long investigation into growing hemp for industrial uses. Hemp fibre can be used for paper, cloth and boards and its seeds can be made into oil or flour.

Regardless of how it was used, it still fell under the Misuse of Drugs Act, Mrs King said.

"For this reason, careful consideration has been given to ensuring that the application and monitoring procedures for cultivation of industrial hemp provide the appropriate protection for all involved."

Anyone wanting to grow industrial hemp had to meet certain criteria, including that they were a suitable person, were able to grow the crop without it being tampered with, could meet crop trial reporting requirements and had technical expertise.

Licences would be issued for one year, and the trial would run for two growing seasons, Mrs King said.

At that stage, crops would be evaluated to see if the trial had been successful and a working group - comprising representatives from the police, the Health Ministry and customs - would consider what, if any, restrictions were needed.

"A key component of any licence to run a trial plot will be allowing officials access to the cultivation site, as well as random sampling and provision of data," Mrs King said.

Hemp is a variety of cannabis but has low levels (0.3 per cent) of THC, the psychoactive ingredient in cannabis.

Mrs King said the random sampling would allow officials to monitor concentrations of THC. Disposal and destruction of harvested material could also be monitored.

"Applicants will be required to provide full details of disposal and destruction, as well as to explain how they will deal with the regrowth from harvested plants and plants grown from germination of seed produced by the trial plants," she said.

Green MP Nandor Tanczos said he was pleased the Government had acted on the issue of hemp cultivation but he still wanted the substance removed from the Misuse of Drugs Act.

"Hemp is controlled by the Department of Health. There is no reason for that to be the case. It is not a drug and shouldn't have anything to do with the Misuse of Drugs Act," he said.

Mr Tanczos said part of the reason approval for industrial hemp growing had taken so long was misunderstanding of the product.

It was important that "paranoia" around the issue of hemp did not make it difficult for growers to run commercially viable businesses.

Mr Tanczos said it was not necessary to have extreme security measures to protect hemp crops and it was important this regulation did not make trials too expensive for growers.

"Given that you can't get high off it, there's not a big problem of people breaking in and trying to steal it. Even if they do, they don't get high off it so they don't come back."

- NZPA, STAFF REPORTER

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