Hemp growers’ outrage

TASMANIA’S peak hemp industry body has slammed a new draft Bill tabled in Parliament this week saying it will do nothing to support the industry’s growth into the future.

Tasmanian Hemp Association President Andi Lucas said after a year of consultation with the Government the industry was extremely disappointed that none of its recommendations were taken on board in the Industrial Hemp Amendment Bill 2023.

A key issue is the Government’s decision to continue to include industrial hemp, which is scientifically proven to have extremely low levels of tetrahydrocannabinol, in the same category and regulatory framework as elicit substances including high THC cannabis.

Instead of treating industrial hemp as an unregulated broadacre crop similar to other cereals, under the draft Bill growers will still be required to undergo a licensing process.

Hemp is still included in the state’s Poisons Act and the Misuse of Drugs Act.

“It makes absolutely no sense to have it in Drugs Act because it’s a ban on the whole species of the plant,” Ms Lucas said. “That’s just as ludicrous as saying we’re going to ban all mushrooms because some are harmful.”

Ms Lucas said there seemed be a lack of will in government to make meaningful changes to how industrial hemp is classified.

This season Tasmania will grow less than 100ha of crop. Three years ago it produced 1400ha and was the country’s largest producer of hemp seed.

Ms Lucas said while lower prices due to cheap hemp imports and rising inputs costs have influenced farmers’ decisions not to grow the crop, the ongoing regulatory burden is also a significant factor.

While Tasmania was once leading the country when it came to hemp production, Ms Lucas said the Government’s unwillingness to support the industry by making common sense legislative changes now meant local growers are falling behind.

Announcing the Bill this week, Minister for Primary Industries and Water Jo Palmer said it would support industry growth by including horticultural use as an explicit licence purpose.

“Proposed amendments will improve clarity, efficiency, and transparency for licensees. It will also provide consistency with existing legislation in relation to police powers, the assessment of suitability of applicants, and definitions for fit and proper persons and responsible officers,” Ms Palmer said.

Ms Lucas said Tasmania had gone from leading the country to now falling well behind other states.

“For several years we had absolutely the best and most progressive legislation in the country and that’s when we saw that swell of planting area in those years, but now it’s like what do we do now,” she said.

Ms Lucas said claims by the Government that the amendment Bill would benefit the industry were incorrect.

“I would say this Bill will actually almost do more harm than anything because we haven’t taken an opportunity to move forward,” she said.

Ms Lucas said while there were some Federal legislation changes that also needed to be made to see the national industry grow, there was a lot that could be done on a state level to genuinely support the industry.

“This was our opportunity to get a competitive advantage over the other states,” she said.

For more information about the Bill go to http://www.nre.tas.gov.au