Sunday, February 26, 2017
Hemp cultivation for industrial use one step closer in SA
By Loukas Founten
The South Australian Government will back a Greens plan to legalise hemp cultivation for industrial use, which would align the state with others.
The Northern Territory is the only other jurisdiction where industrial hemp cultivation has not been legalised, but crop trials are underway there.
Victoria was the first Australian state to legalise an industry, in 1998, and other states have followed.
Hemp is a cannabis type with very low levels of the psychoactive chemical THC, and can be used to produce clothing, food, paper, textiles, plastics, insulation and biofuel.
South Australian Greens Upper House MP Tammy Franks introduced an industrial hemp bill to the Parliament last year.
The State Government said it would back the legislation, provided amendments limited the level of THC and subjected growers to testing and regulatory checks that they were a "fit and proper person".
"Last month we held a roundtable with people interested in the economic opportunities of hemp and medical cannabis," Manufacturing Minister Kyam Maher said.
"It will also allow for the possibility of manufacturing hemp into products such as textiles, building products and a range of cosmetics.
"It will then be up to the industry to decide. It will be up to farmers to decide whether this is an economic and viable crop for them and also manufacturers to look at if they can economically make ... things like building products, textiles and cosmetics."
Mr Maher said the issue was separate from any legalisation of medical marijuana use, which was federally regulated.
Last week, the Federal Government moved to loosen importation laws around medical marijuana, allowing it to be more easily accessible.
Mr Maher said the SA Government was willing to back any industry offering an economic benefit to the state, including possibly medical marijuana.
Industrial Hemp Association official Teresa McDowell welcomed the Government's support of the bill before the SA Parliament.
PHOTO: Teresa McDowell is excited SA might join a hemp industry she says is growing rapidly. (ABC News)
"The industry globally is multi-faceted and worth billions of dollars — if you look at the hemp food industry globally, places like Canada exported $114 million worth of food and in America the industry is worth $576 million per year," she said.
"Economically it's an incredible resource and one that we just need to allow our state to tap into."
She said getting federal legislative approval for consumption of hemp food products was her industry's next hope.
Wade Dabinett, of Grain Producers South Australia, volunteered his Mallee property for commercial trials in anticipation that hemp can give primary producers another crop rotation and let them into global markets.
"With legislative change, it's going to take some time so we'll look this year to work with [primary industry authorities] to get some trials up and running, so when the change comes in we can hit the ground running and hopefully it is a viable option," he said.
"There is certainly a lot of [farmers'] interest, but it's hard to be interested until you know if it's going to work. It's all about doing the trials, seeing if the timing works, time of sowing versus when we harvest it.
If South Australian legislation passes, crop trials could get underway this year.
The state Liberal Party is considering its position on industrial hemp and frontbencher David Ridgway said he plans to discuss it with colleagues in the party room this week.