Let hemp thrive

Feilding-Rangitikei Herald - - Front Page - SAM KILMISTER

Red tape and tight re­stric­tions are stop­ping New Zealand’s mod­est hemp industry from grow­ing, a Ran­gitıkei farmer says.

Tom Welch is di­ver­si­fy­ing his Mar­ton dairy farm by grow­ing in­dus­trial hemp, but reg­u­la­tions that pre­vent his plan­ta­tion from be­ing vis­i­ble from the road and used to mar­ket prod­ucts are hurt­ing the industry.

Hemp, like the illegal drug cannabis, de­rives from the cannabis sa­tiva plant species and con­tains the psy­choac­tive stim­u­lant tetrahy­dro­cannabi­nol, known as THC.

The Govern­ment hasn’t changed reg­u­la­tions since 2006 de­spite hemp seeds hav­ing a THC con­cen­tra­tion of less than 1 per cent, com­pared to nearly 20 per cent in mar­i­juana.

The hemp leaf is pro­hib­ited from la­bels and ad­ver­tis­ing to not mis­lead con­sumers that hemp prod­ucts have psy­choac­tive prop­er­ties, Min­istry of Health Med­safe gen­eral man­ager Chris James said.

Plan­ta­tions were also barred from the road­side in a bid to pre­vent dam­age and theft to crops by the pub­lic. Many peo­ple were not able to dis­tin­guish hemp crops from cannabis crops, James said.

In­dus­trial pro­duc­tion was po­liced heav­ily as it could also be used to pro­duce cannabid­iol, a non-psy­choac­tive cannabi­noid that could have medic­i­nal ben­e­fits, James said.

But Welch be­lieves the rigid laws and red tape have sti­fled in­vest­ment in the industry.

If peo­ple were to con­tam­i­nate his crop with mar­i­juana, the cross-pol­li­na­tion would wa­ter down the drug’s THC lev­els and ren­der it use­less, he said.

While he would use the seed for oil and flour, the hemp stalk could be re­fined into a va­ri­ety of com­mer­cial items in­clud­ing pa­per, cloth­ing, biodegrad­able plas­tics, in­su­la­tion, bio­fuel and an­i­mal feed.

He hoped to press 150 litres of oil and make 100 kilo­grams of flour from the seeds af­ter the oil had been taken.

When his first crop is har­vested in March, he plans to use the stalk as a sub­sti­tute for ce­ment and stone when lay­ing a new drive­way.

‘‘There’s a lot to like about hemp.

‘‘The reg­u­la­tions are a bit ridicu­lous, I think. It af­fects who we em­ploy on the farm.’’

At the mo­ment, he farms 300 friesian-cross cows on 150 hectares. There are 4ha of hemp and 2ha of pumpkins.

PHOTO: DAVID UN­WIN/STUFF

Welch is moving away from dairy farm­ing to grow hemp.

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