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Customs opinion on hemp 'bizarre'

Customs opinion on hemp 'bizarre'

Green MP Nandor Tanczos has urged the Primary Production Select Committee to progress his Misuse of Drugs (Industrial Hemp) Amendment Bill to stop New Zealand's promising hemp industry being threatened by a customs opinion that claimed "all hemp is cannabis and cannabis is a controlled drug".

Nandor said comments by Simon Williamson, the drug investigations operations manager for the Customs Service, posed a serious threat to the industry.

"This latest opinion on the law will have major ramifications for the whole industry because a senior customs official has stated that 'the amount of THC that is present is irrelevant'," said Nandor. "This means that products such as hemp seed oil or jeans made from hemp fibre are at risk.

"A previous Minister of Customs furnished her ministerial house with hemp curtains. Will they be seized? Will customs now start taking hemp shirts off peoples' backs?"

Nandor is writing to the Primary Production committee, urging it to call for submissions on his bill so that a THC content threshold can be established in legislation. The bill was referred to the select committee with the support of Labour, the Alliance, ACT and the Greens in May 2001, but has not progressed, pending the result of hemp trials underway in New Zealand.

"Until the law is changed there is confusion about whether the laws governing marijuana apply to hemp, which is not psychoactive. Potentially an importer of hemp jeans could be prosecuted for importation of a Class C controlled substance," said Nandor.

"Custom's latest interpretation of the Misuse of Drugs Act makes this a real possibility and highlights the need to update the law. New Zealand is out of step with other countries, including Australia and most of Europe, which distinguish between low THC hemp and marijuana.

"Customs department are in a difficult position because they do not have clear guidelines on how to treat consignments of hemp products. This has led to a number of cases of unfair and inconsistent decisions over the past few years".

Nandor acknowledged his interests as a minority shareholder of a business that imports hemp products.

"This is not about trying to circumvent the law, it is about introducing sensible laws to ensure that hemp products are not treated as illegal drugs," said Nandor.

ENDS

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