"It is quite a sexy new industry, there are a lot of people who are interested."

Economic Development Adviser for Rangitikei District Council, Gioia Damosso is working to promote the hemp industry in her region.

"Obviously in the Rangitīkei and the Whanganui districts we have a lot of land and hemp is a wonderful opportunity for sustainable economic growth," she said.

Uses for hemp are still being discovered and the range of products it can be used for is vast - from a superfood to a premium building material.

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"Hemp has been identified to have over 50,000 uses and we are only scratching the surface of that right now," Mathew Johnson of Hemp Connect said.

Recent changes to the law allow the birth of a new industry, prompting the Whanganui and Rangitīkei economic development agencies to develop a hemp hub for the regions.

Its role is to share information on this burgeoning industry, to help entrepreneurs getting in at the start of a growth industry.

As part of that, an information afternoon in Marton on the 30th of July will be held.

"Guest speakers include Richard Barge from the NZ Hemp industry association, Dr Michael Nicols who has a background working for Massey and can provide a lot of scientific information," Damosso said.

Gioia Damosso of Rangitīkei District Council. Photo / Georgie Ormond.
Gioia Damosso of Rangitīkei District Council. Photo / Georgie Ormond.

"Also some of our local farmers, Tom Welch from Cannock Harvest, Matt and Werner from Hemp Connect to talk about their motivations behind getting in to the hemp industry. And looking at the trials and tribulations of growing and discussing what the opportunities are.

The councils want to make sure they are supporting hemp growers and producers wanting to give it a go.

"Hemp Connect is one of the first companies in New Zealand that grows processes and takes to market its own industrial hemp food products," Johnson said. "We produce food products primarily, so that's oils, protein powders, hemp hearts ... and that can go into a wide variety of things such as skin products."

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But he says the industry continues to be hamstrung by unnnecessary regulations, which result from ignorance of what hemp actually is.

"Because of the relationship that it has to its more notorious cousin, being marijuana, and the stigma that is associated with that.

"Hemp is commonly referred to as marijuana, they look very similar and it's hard to distinguish between the two. Really the difference by definition is that it has less than 0.3 per cent THC to be classified as industrial hemp.

"We've grown up thinking that most cannabis varieties would all fall under the marijuana bracket, where in fact 90 per cent of the cannabis varieties in the world fall into the industrial hemp bracket," Johnson said.

The cannabinoid, THC is not present in industrial hemp at a level that can cause the high associated with smoking marijuana.

But because of its presence, the rules remain, making it more difficult for farmers to grow it.

Mathew Johnson of Hemp Connect. Photo / Georgie Ormond.
Mathew Johnson of Hemp Connect. Photo / Georgie Ormond.

"It's only a matter of time before hemp is thrust into the mainstream and people really are aware of the difference between the two.

"In the future I am really hoping that hemp is just another arable crop that farmers and our nation can benefit from."

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