New Zealand looks set to have its first legal hemp crop in the ground later this year. After persistent lobbying by a dedicated band of hemp enthusiasts, the NZ government has granted approval for trial crops to be planted and invited prospective growers to submit proposals.
Criteria for planting trial crops have been developed by the government in consultation with the NZ Hemp Industry Association. They cover security issues, THC testing, provisions for police inspections, and standards for imported seed.
The former National Party government, defeated in the 1999 elections, rigidly opposed all attempts to develop hemp cultivation as part of its “reefer madness” propaganda war against cannabis. While the present Coalition government has not been overly friendly toward the smoking herb, it has at least recognised the differences betwen hemp and marijuana. In June 2000, it removed the moratorium on issuing licences to grow industrial hemp.
Prospective growers have been invited to submit proposals, and those meeting the standards can expect to receive their hemp growing licenses in May or June. This will give them time to prepare their fields and complete security arrangements before the planting season begins in September.
No limits have been set on the number of licenses that can be granted or the amount of land that can be planted in hemp. License holders will be required to pay the costs of inspections and THC testing.
NZ Hemp Industry Association chairman Donald McIntosh commented, “Finally we have a government that recognizes industrial hemp for what it is: an economic opportunity.”
Industrial hemp offers New Zealand an opportunity to improve the economic prospects of its poorer rural regions, where unemployment is high and income from traditional agriculture has declined.
In anticipation of the hemp harvest, processing facilities will need to be established. Companies such as Febrenova of Australia and Rohempen, a British/Romanian consortium, have shown interest in this regard.
New Zealand now imports over $1 million worth of hemp products annually, including textiles, foodstuffs, and body care products.