By Kylie Pinker, The Nelson Mail
Nelson, New Zealand — Industrial hemp advocates want to be growing trial crops in the Nelson region by October, and see no reason why it is not possible.
This was the clear message given to Minister of Customs and Associate Minister of Economic Development Phillida Bunkle at a meeting in Motueka last night.
About 70 people packed the Motueka Sports Pavillion to hear local advocates and New Zealand Hemp Industries Association chief executive Mac Macintosh discuss growing hemp in the Nelson region.
Ms Bunkle said that while the Ministry of Customs realised there were risks involved in growing industrial hemp, she reaffirmed her support for a working party on the issue.
“However, in my other role as Associate Minister of Economic Development, there may be an opportunity for development in this industry.”
She said it was definitely worth investigating. However, there were wider, serious community concerns that needed to be addressed, and it was also important to evaluate information from overseas.
She said industrial hemp was already successfully grown under controls throughout the world.
Mr Macintosh said that after pushing the industrial hemp issue for 10 years, he had been revitalised and re-energised by a recent announcement that the Government supported “in principle” the lifting of a moratorium on industrial hemp trials.
“Bureaucracy has to be comfortable with where we are going with this. Just because industrial hemp and marijuana have the same name, it is not a good reason to stop hemp trials.”
Local advocate Peter Smale, who has been researching industrial hemp since the demise of the Motueka tobacco industry in the early 1980s, began the meeting by pointing out that the only similarity between industrial hemp and drug cannabis was their botanical names.
“That is the only thing standing in the way of trialling this crop. More than 50,000 commercial products are now known to be made using industrial hemp.”
He pointed out that while hemp was a variety of the cannabis plant, it contained only 0.53 percent of the psychoactive chemical tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), compared with 8 to 15 percent in drug cannabis.“In other words, you could probably smoke an acre and only get a headache.”
Mr Smale said all the equipment needed for soil preparation, seed sowing, mowing and baling was already in New Zealand.
He said nutrient residue in soils in the Motueka area would provide perfect conditions for trialling hemp crops in New Zealand.
Steve Burnett, who first took the idea of growing industrial hemp in Motueka to Brian Coulter at the Motueka Employment and Small Business Centre in 1996, spoke of the products that could be made from hemp, including fibreboard, textiles, paper and cosmetics.
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