Health ministers in Australia and New Zealand have approved low-THC hemp seeds for human consumption.
The people of Australia and New Zealand will soon be able to legally consume hemp food products, after a landmark decision by the nation’s health ministers. Federal Assistant Health Minister David Gillespie announced that the group has approved the sale of hemp seeds.
Health ministers had rejected proposals to amend the Food Standards Code as far back as 2002. The eventual decision to change the law was made after extensive research, including a report from the Swinburne University of Technology, concluded that hemp seeds are safe and are a good source of vitamins, minerals, and polyunsaturated fatty acids.
The research also found hemp to naturally contain zero to very low levels of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), which played a significant role in the approval. Ministers had been concerned that legalizing the consumption of hemp would adversely affect roadside drug testing. While hemp and marijuana are both members of the same Cannabis sativa L. plant species, hemp is grown for food, oil, and fiber and contains just 0.3 percent THC — that’s 33 times less than the least potent marijuana.
“Low THC hemp seeds would be virtually impossible to be a cause of having a positive drug test,” Gillespie told reporters.
“As such, our other ministers in the space, including police, security, agriculture and all the other bodies involved in this space, feel that it is a reasonable thing to include in the food profile of Australia,” he said. “So that will be going through to each state’s legislative processes and gazetting.”
Prior to the approval, stores were allowed to sell hemp-based products like lotion, but hemp was part of a classification that marked it as unsafe for human consumption and prohibited it from being added to foods. The new law is expected to go into effect in both Australia and New Zealand by the end of the year.
“The standard will take effect six months after it has been gazette and ministers acknowledged that there is still a range of New Zealand and State and Territory legislation that currently prohibits the sale of low-THC hemp seeds as a food which will need to be amended,” reads a communiqué from health ministers.
Farmers are already planning ahead for what they believe will be greater opportunities for Australia and New Zealand’s hemp industry. Victorian farmer Harry Youngman told ABC News that he plants to plant a third hemp crop on his property this year. Besides the new market, hemp is fast-growing, uses little water, and helps with land management, Youngman claims.
“The shady nature will help enormously with weed resistance, and thus using less or no chemicals,” Youngman said. “It’s got a very aggressive rooting structure and that, again, for us helps to break up sub soil and improve solid we’re managing. Finally, from an irrigation point of view, water use efficiency is incredible; we’re budgeting on 3-6 mega-liters of water for a crop.”
Charles Kovess, a member of Australian Industrial Hemp Alliance, praised the approval and said it will be a boon for Australia’s hemp industry.
“It’s a wonderful decision,” said Kovess. “It’s disgraceful that it’s taken our politicians so long.”