The Sidney Morning Herald
Cannabis growing offers pot of gold for farmers
NSW farmers could be growing cannabis by spring with the approval of the Iemma Government – but this marijuana can’t be smoked to get high.
It will be a variety of the cannabis plant containing tiny levels of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the chemical that puts the pleasure in pot.
Smoke this Government-approved cannabis and all you’ll get is a cough. The Government has just passed the Hemp Industry Act allowing farmers to grow industrial hemp under licence.
Primary Industries Minister Ian Macdonald said the plant could be used to help create fuel, building materials, insulation, a base for skincare products, paints, paper products and textiles.
“It is a potentially lucrative industrial industry because farmers will have the option of another fast-growing summer crop that can be used in rotation with winter grain crops,” Mr Macdonald said.
The minister said hemp was environmentally friendly, water efficient and extremely hardy.
This is a marked turnaround for governments, which for more than 60 years have seen hemp as synonymous with drugs. NSW follows four other states in allowing industrial hemp crops.
Hemp was a major product for textiles, rope and paper around the world until the 1930s when it was overtaken by the oil and timber industries.
Mr Macdonald said there was an issue with getting the plant accepted as a crop because industrial hemp and marijuana plants look similar.
National Party deputy leader Andrew Fraser said he was concerned farmers could mix the crops and grow the illegal variety.
But under the law only farmers with no criminal record can get a licence to grow hemp. Police and agricultural inspectors will monitor properties regularly.
Narromine farmer Ross Browning found 13 police officers raiding his farm when he was involved in an industrial hemp trial project.
“Somebody stole heads of the plants from my field and dobbed me in when police arrested him for possessing dope. They demanded I pull it all out until I showed them the licence. But they still took samples from my crop and sent it away for testing.
“When it came back with almost no THC reading I was off the hook, but the thief was still in trouble.”
Griffith farmer Pat Calabria has been experimenting with hemp varieties for seven years, but believes Australia has a long way to go to catch up to the rest of the world.
“This could become a major crop in Australia like it is in Europe, but we need processing plants and a market for this crop to take off,” he said.Republish