In order to grow, trade in, or process industrial hemp as an agricultural crop in New Zealand an individual or business needs to be licensed under the Misuse of Drugs (Industrial Hemp) Regulations 2006.
It seems absurd that industrial hemp as an agricultural crop, a crop that is used for food, oil and fibre is regulated by the Ministry of Health under the Misuse of Drugs Regulations and is classed as a controlled drug in Schedule 3 Part I of the Misuse of Drugs Act. The only semi-logical reason for these tight restrictions is because hemp is a member of the cannabis sativa family and has been dragged into the propaganda and criminalisation of marijuana. Hemp must legally contain less than 0.3% THC, meaning hemp will not cause any psychoactive effects such as ‘high’ or euphoria.
As New Zealand (and much of the world) seems to follow suit on Laws and Regulations made by the United States, it is interesting to observe the changes that have been made there and the effects this had had on Industrial Hemp development.
The Beginning of Hemp's Return
The hemp industry in the U.S. received a boost with the passage of the 2014 Farm Bill. This allowed “institutions of higher education” and state agriculture departments to grow hemp under a pilot program as long as state law permitted it. Additionally, the 2014 bill established a definition of industrial hemp, officially setting the THC threshold in the U.S. at 0.3 percent on a dry weight basis.
In New Zealand, hemp was first regulated for growing under Misuse of Drugs (Industrial Hemp) Regulations 2006 which allowed growers to apply for a license to grow and process hemp seed oil. No other part of the plant was available for consumption or use and was required to be destroyed. Hemp had to be tested for levels of THC to ensure if met the lower than 0.3% threshold required by law.
Hemp's Turning Point in the U.S.A.
On December 20, 2018 President Donald Trump signed into law The Agriculture Improvement Act of 2018 – or as we know it, the 2018 Farm Bill. The bill confirmed the legalisation of hemp and provisions for its cultivation, transport, and sale. Industrial hemp and its derived products are now legal on a U.S. federal level.
Hemp in New Zealand Today
Hemp in New Zealand is now widely available as a food product and we can extract the seed oil for valuable health supplements and skincare products, thanks to the legalisation of hemp seeds for human consumption in November 2018. The transfer of industrial hemp out of the Misuse of Drugs Act and under the Ministry for Primary Industries would allow the total plant to be treated as an agricultural crop and open up the total use of the plant for the huge variety of potential uses it is capable of.
Hemp is now part of our future. Our utmost gratitude is given to the humans who have fought for hemp's return by battling today's society's health and environmental issues, who have truthfully educated people about the hemp's uses and potential and ensured that information is widely known.
New Zealand Cannabis Referendum
Hemp's dark ages are nearly over, but there is still much work to be done. New Zealand's Cannabis referendum awaits us in October 2020, the result of which will have far reaching implications for the future of hemp in New Zealand, and the world.
Firstly, cannabis must be regulated and legislated for. It is not enough to simply make the use of it illegal, we must place structure around the use of this plant. In New Zealand we are currently only able to utilise the hemp seed for food the rest of the plant goes to waste. If the legislation passes it will enable us to utilise the plant for its endless uses including nutraceuticals (from the leaves and stem), fibre (building and textiles), root (healing and medicine), and leaves (food and medicine).
The pandemic of obesity, mental health and other chronic diseases in our country can be met with natural remedies from this plant which we will only fully realise once the government eases restrictions.
More change must come for the full realisation of hemp’s potential to be met.
To read all about the history of hemp - click through to Brad's history blog.