Editorial March 3rd 2023
Welcome to this weeks editorial, It is an absolute fact that the South Coast of NSW is the perfect environment for growing marijuana. For decades the region has been lauded far and wide for its harvest and generation after generation of Australian youth have sampled our regional produce. This week we heard once again just how suitable the region is when a local court was told of the surprising growth results of a few marijuana seeds planted in a small family garden. What if this week’s revelation in court became a turning point for the region. What if this was a lightbulb moment to the South East becoming the hemp region of Australia. It is evident that the region can grow the crop. So what can we do to value add to the effort and knowledge of a few miscreants that will create a legal industry, and a sustainable industry at that? Wikipedia tells us that hemp, or industrial hemp, is a botanical class of Cannabis sativa cultivars grown specifically for industrial or medicinal use. It can be used to make a wide range of products. Along with bamboo, hemp is among the fastest growing plants on Earth. Unlike cotton it is not water hungry and in a normal year offers a yield of three crops. AgriFutures Australia estimates that industrial hemp will require two-to-six megalitres of water per hectare, lower than cotton's average irrigation requirement of between six and seven megalitres. Depending on the type grown (industrial or medicinal) the potential for local industry from both is enormous. Why haven’t we already embraced the opportunities? Hemp cannot be grown (commercially or for research) in NSW without a license issued by the NSW Department of Primary Industries. The sale and handling of other hemp products, such as seeds and fibre, also requires a license. As for the cultivation of cannabis for medicinal purposes; it is only permitted in Australia under the Commonwealth Narcotic Drugs Act 1967 (the Act). The Act does not support the cultivation of medicinal cannabis for personal use however in the ACT, if you are aged 18 years or older, you can legally cultivate up to 2 cannabis plants at a place where you live. Putting the growing of pharmaceutical hemp to one side it is long overdue that we have an intelligent conversation about industrial hemp which has been grown in Europe for decades. In 2019 the production of hemp increased from 94,120 tonnes to 152,820 tonnes (a 62.4% increase) with France as the largest producer, accounting for more than 70% of EU production. Hemp (Cannabis sativa Linn) is the species in the Cannabaceae family in which the level of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) is very low. In all there are 75 different hemp varieties registered in the EU catalogue, each having their own characteristic suitable for industry.
Virtually every part of the plant can be used in a specific industrial field. The seeds can be used in the food, feed, and cosmetical field as whole or dehulled, or it may be subjected to a cold press process to obtain an oil used in the food and cosmetic industries. From the stem, it is possible to obtain both shives and fibre, useful for animal, building, paper and textile applications. Hemp flowers can be used to obtain products of cosmetic and pharmaceutical interest, such as essential oils composed by delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabidiol (CBD) pure extracts.
Meanwhile in Australia it is all dope and no one is allowed to grow dope. That attitude is making us a pretty dopey country because we import bucket loads of hemp products from overseas. Only now are we beginning to recognise the role that hemp can play in textiles, building and pharmacy. Given that we are the perfect location to grow quality hemp it is a no-brainer that we could also value add locally and create an industry that is sustainable, valuable and most of all achievable. If only the dopes in NSW would stop calling it Dope. Much like our own local celebrity, singer James Blundell says he is also pleasantly surprised by the results of a trial crop he is growing on his Queensland property. His crop however is less than 0.3 per cent THC. An that emerging crop of low THC hemp is projected to bring Australian farmers $10 million a year by 2026.