Wellington, New Zealand — Industrial hemp trials might be planted this season after Customs Minister Phillida Bunkle gave her officials the go-ahead to start negotiations.
Ms Bunkle, who had agreed in principle to the trials, said yesterday that Customs officials would meet industry representatives on August 21 to work out a trials framework.
Trials of industrial hemp could be planted under existing legislation, but government approval would be needed to grow it commercially.
Hemp was likely to be removed from the Misuse of Drugs Act and regulated under the Customs and Excise Act if the trials were successful.
A spokesman for Health Minister Annette King said she supported the move, provided all regulatory conditions were met.
Green Party co-leader Rod Donald welcomed the news, saying that it was urgent that the Government make a firm decision so that farmers keen to try the crop could get it planted this season.
Industrial hemp advocate Brian Coulter of Motueka, northwest of Nelson, said it was frustrating that the decision had taken so long.
It might have put New Zealand behind other international players, but there would still be a domestic demand for the product, he said.
Motueka horticultural scientist and hemp supporter Peter Smale said he would apply to undertake trials as soon as approval was confirmed.
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