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Man, that’s good sewage — but hemp trial has dope dealers in a spin

Posted on March 6, 2004

If Keith Bolton has his way, hemp — the great symbol of the hippy North Coast — will be coming to a sewage treatment plant near you very soon. And to your wardrobe, your pantry, your car and your medicine cabinet.

Interestingly, the strongest opponents of the Southern Cross University academic’s dream are the drug dealers in nearby Nimbin.

Man has cultivated hemp for fibre, food and medicine for at least 6000 years and Dr Bolton says that, after a 70-year “blip in history” caused by prohibition, it is time to embrace hemp again to help save the planet.

Dr Bolton is director of the University’s Centre for Ecotechnology in Lismore. For the past three years he has been experimenting with hemp as a “mop crop” that can soak up effluent.

At Bangalow, he recently harvested his first crop grown at a sewage treatment plant. In its 100-day growing cycle, the one-hectare trial produced 18 tonnes of hemp and soaked up 10 million litres of effluent.

Hemp is one of the mop crops being tested because it has so many commercial uses, needs no herbicides or pesticides and “grows like the clappers”.

Of the hundreds of different varieties of hemp, only about 10 per cent have sufficient levels of the tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) to give people a high.

Industrial hemp — with very low THC — can be used to make everything from ethanol and clothing to paper and cosmetics. Its seeds are rich in protein and omega fatty acids and can be used in a variety of foods.

“I am hopeful that our legislators have the courage, integrity and wisdom to allow the Australian hemp industry to reach its full potential,” Dr Bolton said.

Phil Warner is the managing director of Ecofibre Industries, which helped Dr Bolton grow his crop and has spent the past 10 years developing industrial hemp plants suited to Australia.

He said that while it was now legal to grow industrial hemp crops in Queensland, Victoria and Tasmania, NSW only allows small trial crops that must be licensed by the Health Department.

If you smoked an entire paddock of Dr Bolton’s crop you would get a headache rather than a high, and that is why he has his opponents among the drug community.

“They are concerned that the pollen from my low THC crops will contaminate their high THC crops, reducing their virility,” Dr Bolton said.

“Their concerns, to an extent, are founded. Hemp is wind pollinated, so the pollen from the male flowers may travel several kilometres. I think that we will just have to learn to coexist.”

Related articles

New South Wales researchers experiment with cannabis “mop-crop”
Wednesday, April 28, 2004

Hemp saves sea from sewage dumps
Thursday, February 12, 2004

Copyright © 2004, Sydney Morning Herald. All rights reserved.

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