Calling for change in the hemp industry

Hemp Health owner Paul Wright says the many uses of hemp are blocked by overly strict production...
Hemp Health owner Paul Wright says the many uses of hemp are blocked by overly strict production regulations, and he wants to see control shift to the agricultural sector. PHOTO: BEN TOMSETT
An Invercargill business owner is appealing to the country’s leadership for a revaluation of how hemp is farmed in New Zealand.

Hemp Health owner Paul Wright said the use of hemp products had been consistently blocked by the government, and his questions to government had gone unanswered.

Hemp production is regulated in New Zealand to ensure illegal, high-THC cannabis is not produced, and growing, possession and trade of whole seeds requires a $511.11 yearly licence from the Ministry of Health.

Under New Zealand law, industrial hemp varieties are controlled drugs listed in Schedule 3 Part I of the Misuse of Drugs Act 1975.

Industrial hemp includes varieties of cannabis sativa that have a tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) content generally below 0.35%.

Mr Wright sold health products derived from hemp seeds, but said other uses of the plant were going to waste.

In the run up to elections, he said he wanted to see more politicians speak on the issue and aim for a change in industry regulations.

"[Regulations] are hampering the industry in New Zealand, we know how to do so much more with it than just using it for the seed."

Earlier this year, Mr Wright sent emails to Minister of Agriculture Damien O’Connor, who did not respond, and the Ministry of Health, who responded by acknowledging his letter but stated changes would need to be decided by Cabinet.

"At this stage they don’t seem to be listening to any of us."

He said he wanted the production of hemp to be controlled by the agricultural sector.

"A lot of people think, ‘oh we’ve got a hemp industry in New Zealand’, but we really haven’t because we can only use the seed."

New Zealand Hemp Industries Association chairman Donald ‘Mack’ McIntosh said he had been trying for decades to appeal for changes.

He said the current regulations were "nonsensical," as hemp should not be clarified as a drug considering its low levels of THC content.

"This is just another agricultural crop, the trick will be how do we get it past the politicians at this stage?"

The Ministry of Agriculture did not respond to questions from the Southland Express by deadline.