By LOUISA CLEAVE
Customs has seized a shipment of hemp products destined for an Auckland store co-owned by Greens MP Nandor Tanczos.
The Hemp Store Aotearoa has filed papers in the Manukau District Court seeking to have the Customs Service release the products, worth about $20,000.
The consignment contains hemp tea and a brand of smoking mixture from Germany called Knaster Hanf.
Mr Tanczos said customs had cleared such products before and he was unsure why this shipment had been seized.
Customs had been provided with the correct import documentation, which showed THC - the active ingredient in marijuana - in the products was well below the usual 0.3 per cent for hemp, he said.
Hemp Store spokesman Chris Fowlie said it was the first seizure in seven years of importing hemp products.
Customs would only tell him that the shipment had been identified as cannabis.
The seizure notice did not mention THC levels in the products, said Mr Fowlie.
Customs spokeswoman Lisa-Marie Richan said "an amount of cannabis" had been seized but the service could not comment further as the matter was now before the courts.
Simon Williamson, drug investigations operations manager, was yesterday quoted as saying a total of 56kg of cannabis had been intercepted at Auckland Airport.
Mr Tanczos said he did not blame customs for taking action, although the service had been "inconsistent" in its approach to hemp products, and a law change was required.
He has proposed an amendment to the Misuse of Drugs Act that would establish a THC content threshold which would distinguish between marijuana and hemp.
His private member's bill, introduced in May 2001 to deal with the issue, is expected to come before the primary production select committee again in a few weeks.
"Until the law is changed there is confusion about whether the laws governing marijuana apply to hemp, which is not psycho-active.
"Potentially, an importer of hemp jeans could be prosecuted for importation of a Class C controlled substance."
Mr Tanczos said he had not considered severing his ties as a director and shareholder in the store while in Parliament.
By LOUISA CLEAVE