Shaun Lisson of the University of Tasmania outlined the current
state of hemp study and cultivation in Australia. Although no hemp industry
currently exists in Australia, hemp related activities have been gaining
momentum, and hemp merchandise from overseas manufacturers is being sold at
a number of outlets.
A Study in South Australia
In South Australia, permission has been granted for a two year study into
the potential use of hemp as a strengthening supplement in a proposed wheat
straw paper mill. Field trials are expected to begin in the Autumn of this
year. Licensing authorities require that a wide range of monitoring, crop
handling, and security measures are adhered to, and that THC levels are
kept below the required levels.
Regulations in New South Wales
In New South Wales negotiations for license issue have been going on for
the past four years, with rejection being based upon concerns about crop
security and the weed potential of hemp. The most recent submission has
been made by a partnership between a hemp merchandising company and a
prominent New South Wales university. There have been expressions from
local industry in both textile and biofuel production.
Testing in Tasmania
The first license to grow cannabis in Tasmania was issued by the state
government in 1991. Although the license was issued too late to sow the
crop, the next year a successful harvest was reaped. In early 1993
laboratory pulping trials were conducted with two major pulping
companies. These trials demonstrated the potential of mechanical hemp
pulping and showed the need for further research.
Four Reasons Why
There are a number of reasons why the legal cultivation of cannabis was
approved in Tasmania four years earlier than anywhere else in Australia.
First, there is a growing need in Tasmania for a locally produced
reinforcing pulp for newsprint to replace the softwood pulp currently
imported from outside Australia.
Second, the temperate, maritime climate and soils of Tasmania are well
suited to the cultivation of hemp.
Third, the issue was approached by a coordinated effort between industry,
the state’s university, a local support group, and farmers.
Finally, opium poppies are cultivated in Tasmania, so an infrastructure
already exists to monitor the production of governmentally regulated crops.
A Seedy Situation
In Australia there is a growing awareness of hemp-based products and
merchandise. A company called Environmentally Sound Products is
trying to import hemp seeds for use as a food product and as a source of
oil for body products. A major obstacle to this is that cannabis is
currently considered a prohibited botanical for use as a
foodstuff. Attempts are being made to exempt hemp seed in the same manner
poppy seed, and it is expected to be successful.
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