Trial plots of industrial hemp look almost certain to receive Government
approval in time for the next planting season.

Health Minister Annette King is still waiting for recommendations from a
working group about licensing the plots, but indicated yesterday that
planting could begin this spring.

The working group, including representatives of the Ministry of Health,
MAF, Customs and police, has been developing a regulatory framework for the
industrial growth of hemp and was due to report last week.

Mrs King now expects the recommendations within a few weeks.

Overseas, hemp is used for paper, curtains, clothes and cosmetics but
cannot be grown here because the plant is grouped with other varieties of
cannabis as a Class C drug.

A hemp plant is the same as a cannabis plant, except it is grown from
"selectively bred" seeds that contain a much lower level of THC, the
substance that gives cannabis its mind-altering quality.

Hemp plants have about 0.3 per cent THC compared with around 12 per cent in

New Zealand-grown hemp would initially be produced from imported seeds.

Textiles are woven from the stalk fibre.

Oil from the seeds is thought to have a higher nutritional value than soya
bean oil.

Approval to grow hemp commercially has been a long time coming for Green
Party co-leader Rod Donald, who wanted to have trial crops in the ground
last year.

He said the omission of hemp from New Zealand agriculture was an
embarrassment when Australia was reaping the benefits of the arable crop.

Police had been worried that commercial hemp plots would be used to
disguise cannabis plants.

But some lobbyists, including the Hemp Association, said that should not be
a concern because mixing plots of the two plants would only damage the
potency of cannabis.

A spokesman for Mrs King said it was yet to be decided how many trial plots
would be allowed if the recommendations were approved, or where they would be.

Growers would probably be chosen after expressions of interest were invited.

Pubdate: Tue, 27 Mar 2001
Source: New Zealand Herald (New Zealand)
Copyright: 2001 New Zealand Herald
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