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Hew Dalrymple has been planting cannabis . . . four hectares (10 acres) of
it. But he's not going to smoke it, he wants to press the seeds for oil -
and he's allowed to.

The cannabis he and about a dozen other New Zealanders are planting as part
of a national trial does not have marijuana's high levels of the
hallucinogen THC.

He is planting industrial hemp which has a THC level of about 0.15 per
cent, way below marijuana's 9 per cent.

And he has bad news for dope-growers: "Don't try and hide your plants among
my crops because they will cross-fertilise and reduce your THC levels to

The hemp seed is being direct-drilled in paddocks on his farm at Parewanui,
near Bulls, at the rate of 70 kilograms a hectare.

About 60 per cent will germinate and by March he hopes to be harvesting
about 50 plants a metre, each standing two to 2.5 metres tall, which will
be a challenge for his combine harvester. He may also try some as baleage.

Dope-growers apart, it is likely to be a trouble-free crop, being resistant
to fungus and insects. The only pest will be birds and Mr Dalrymple says he
may have to harvest a little early to save his seeds.

He expects to get about 1.5 tonnes of seed a hectare, from which about 300
litres of oil will be pressed. The oil is highly prized for its omega oils
and is used in baking, particularly bread, and in dressings and sauces.

Others are growing the hemp for its fibre, which has industrial uses from
car mouldings to building insulation. However, New Zealand does not yet
have a mechanical plant to break down the fibre.

Ask him why he has ventured into hemp, and Mr Dalrymple,
Manawatu-Rangitikei Federated Farmers grain section chairman, says he just
thought he would "give it a go".

"I've always wanted to try something new. If what I read about it is true,
it could have quite a future."

That future is calculated by David Musgrave, of Geraldine, who is planting
11.3 hectares of seed, to be worth $40 million to $50 million a year in
export earnings within three years.

But first the fledgling industry has to survive its two-year trial. Hemp
Industry Association chairman Mac McIntosh, of Wellington, says that if the
crops are successful and the expectations of a viable industry are
fulfilled, Parliament will be asked to lift the ban on industrial hemp in
the Misuse of Drugs Act.

Asked how confident he feels, Mr McIntosh said: "It depends on which day
you catch me. Sometimes I think what the hell are we doing; other days my
feet hardly touch the ground and there's no holding us back."

He hopes the hemp plantings will not become an election issue. Key factors
will be the police view, which will be dependent to a large degree on the
growers' record-keeping, and how well the crops grow.

He sees the establishment of a New Zealand seedline to be essential for the
industry's survival. The association's seed supply is coming from Canada
and Hungary after the first choice, Australia, demanded too high a price.
From these seeds he hopes generic cultivars suitable to New Zealand can be

Some large New Zealand companies have shown an interest.

"They want to wait for the result of the trials, but we have to attract
research and develop funding. There's enormous potential for hemp fibre,
oil and grain - the sky's the limit."

Newshawk: NORML NZ is working to reform our cannabis laws.
Pubdate: Fri, 09 Nov 2001
Source: Dominion, The (New Zealand)
Copyright: 2001 The Dominion
Contact: letters@dominion.co.nz
Website: Dominion Post News | Stuff.co.nz
Details: Overload Warning
Author: Jon Morgan
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