Changes to government regulations that made the sale and consumption of hemp seed products legal as of yesterday have been hailed by the Hemp Industries Association as a "small yet significant victory".

In addition to hemp seed oil — legal since 2003 — items such as de-hulled hemp seed, hemp seed protein powder, hemp seed beverages and hemp seed snack bars may now all legally be offered for sale.

Association spokesman Richard Barge said the government's decision followed changes that Trans-Tasman food ministers agreed should be made to the Australia New Zealand Food Standards Code in April last year.

Hemp-related food items had been legal in Australia since November 2018.

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Food Safety Minister Damien O'Connor acknowledged last week that the New Zealand industrial hemp (iHemp) industry had been campaigning for the amendment for decades, adding that the industry had the potential to be significantly beneficial to rural economies and communities in terms of generating revenue and jobs.

Mr Barge noted that hemp flowers and leaves, even those strains with effectively zero levels of the psycho-active component THC, would remain illegal in New Zealand food, a continued restriction that was frustrating for those who wanted the high value nutrition of the whole plant to be made available to New Zealanders for dietary and medical benefits.

The possession and trade of whole hemp seeds would also still require a licence, and new hemp seed food items would not be permitted to feature the word cannabis or to show the cannabis leaf on packaging.

"While we welcome any progress that helps the iHemp industry, if the hemp seed is indeed to be traded now as 'any other edible seed,' the restrictions still in place will continue to be a source of postponing the full flourishing of the iHemp industry in New Zealand," Mr Barge said.

"We wait to see how the imminent order in council by the Ministry of Primary Industries will affect the Industrial Hemp Regulations 2006.

"Is the government serious about helping our rural economies?"