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Progress on hemp frustratingly slow

27 July 2000

Progress on hemp frustratingly slow

The Green Party hopes that announcements today from Health Minister Annette King and Customs Minister Phillida Bunkle that hemp trials could start this summer spells the end of years of procrastination by Government politicians.

Annette King announced on Morning Report this morning that an officials working party is about to recommend that farmers will be able to apply for licences to grow industrial hemp in the near future. Phillida Bunkle said the crops could be in the ground by October.

"It is urgent that the Government makes some firm decisions so that those farmers who are keen to try this new crop can get it in the ground this growing season," said Green Party Co-Leader Rod Donald.

"Even a quick decision will mean the time frame will be tight to bring in seeds and set up the infrastructure for planting, harvesting and processing.

"The hemp industry in New Zealand has been on ice because successive Governments have been unduly influenced by those opposed to its introduction. Meanwhile South Africa has launched a major hemp growing initiative and trials have been underway for several years in Australia.

"It is ironic that the last Government talked a lot about enterprise and initiative and yet refused to allow Federated Farmers to trial this potentially lucrative crop.

"The new Government has been moving at a snails pace, but at least it has been moving. In February it announced that it would support in principle the lifting of a moratorium on issuing licences to grow industrial hemp which was imposed by National in 1995. But it has taken until now to implement a 1997 Ministry of Health recommendation to set up the licencing criteria," said Mr Donald.

"The biggest problem with industrial hemp is that because of its high THC cousin it is classed as a controlled drug.

"The current review of the Misuse of Drugs Act could fix the situation by setting a THC (tetrahydrocannabinol) level below which hemp seeds and plants would not be classified as a drug. Then licences for growing hemp could be issued by the Ministry of Agriculture, where it sensibly belongs, rather than by the Ministry of Health," he said

Rod Donald, MP: 04 470 6660, 025 507 183 Jonathan Hill, Press Secretary: 04 470 6719, 021 110 1133

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