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Aussie green light for hemp puts pressure on NZ

18 March 2001

Aussie green light for hemp puts pressure on NZ government

The Green Party is calling on the government to act swiftly to allow New Zealand farmers to grow industrial hemp following New South Wales Agriculture giving the go ahead across the Tasman.

"It's frustrating to see the Aussies beating us yet again, especially when we know our government has a committee looking into hemp trials in New Zealand," said Green Party Co-leader Rod Donald.

Hemp is multi-use crop with its fibre used for paper, cloth and fibre board and its seeds pressed for oil which is used as a health food and in pharmaceuticals and cosmetics.

Farmers, processors and environmentalists have been lobbying successive governments for years to give permission for industrial hemp (the low THC variety of the cannabis plant) to be grown in New Zealand.

"We got nowhere with National, despite the Ministry of Health recommending that trials be allowed back in 1997 after inspecting Australian trials at the time," said Mr Donald.

"Now the Australians are talking about amending their drugs act to make it easier to grow hemp while New Zealand farmers still don't have permission to even trial the crop.

"The Minister of Health, Annette King, promised prompt action when we raised the issue with her early last year but nothing happened in time for this growing season.

"Now, almost a year later, we are still waiting for the bureaucracy to produce what should be some very straight forward criteria so the hemp industry can get off the ground," he said.

Mr Donald said it would be a big embarrassment for the New Zealand government if the hemp issue wasn't sorted out in time for the industry to prepare for the next growing season, including obtaining certified low THC seeds.

Mr Donald said he is writing to both the Minister of Health and Economic Development Minister Jim Anderton requesting that the government give the promising hemp industry some serious support instead of blocking its establishment.

"Last year I visited the hemp industry in France. Over there it's a non issue yet in New Zealand irrational fears about hemp being a cover for cannabis seem to paralyse decision makers."


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