Dishing the dirt on hemp, cannabis

Industrial Hemp Association of Tasmania president and farmer Phil Reader, of Bishopsbourne. Picture: PHILLIP BIGGS
Industrial Hemp Association of Tasmania president and farmer Phil Reader, of Bishopsbourne. Picture: PHILLIP BIGGS

HEMP and medicinal cannabis are completely different things and people need to stop confusing the two, according to the Industrial Hemp Association of Tasmania.

Medicinal cannabis is the illegal hallucinogenic drug, while hemp has no hallucinogenic affect and is used purely for fibre, seed and oil.

Hemp could also be used to produce gluten free flour and as a good source of omega 3, 6 and 9, if it was approved as a food source in Australia.

Both industrial hemp and medicinal cannabis are from the same plant species Cannabis sativa, which is where confusion seems to occur.

Industrial Hemp Association president Phil Reader said the medicinal cannabis debate had clouded growers' work of getting industrial hemp as a food source approved.

He said the big difference between industrial hemp and medicinal cannabis is the plants' THC (Tetrahydrocannabinol) levels.

THC is the main mind- altering ingredient found in the cannabis plant.

Levels of THC in Tasmanian hemp plants have to be below 0.35 per cent.

Anywhere else in Australia, they must be below one per cent.

Levels of THC in the illegal drug, which is being used for medicinal cannabis, are normally between five per cent and seven per cent, but have often been found to contain more than 22 per cent.

Mr Reader said hemp crops across the state had to be tested regularly to ensure they were below the recommended level.

"We have had virtually no detectable levels of THC at all," Mr Reader said.

He said last year, only one crop returned a detectable level of 0.01 per cent.

"In previous years, none have ever detected them," Mr Reader said.

"There's hundreds of varieties of cannabis and over 95 per cent of them don't have any THC in them anyway.

"We've trialled seven or eight different varieties for seed production or fibre and from an industrial perspective, we want to do a lot more work because there could be better kinds out there."

The thing holding back the industrial hemp industry, is that growing for human consumption is forbidden in Australia.

In other places, like New Zealand and Canada, it is legal.

"It's legal to import (hemp), it's legal to sell it, it's legal to consume it, but we can't grow it and sell it in Tasmania," Mr Reader said.

The industry has tried for years to get hemp as a food source legalised, but the issue was deferred again for six months at a meeting last month.

"There's no reason why it shouldn't (be approved)," Mr Reader said. "If it's approved it will make not only a big difference to the price but to everything."

He said the industrial hemp industry could at least double in Tasmania if it was approved.

He said while medicinal cannabis could be a good thing in the future, Tasmanians should focus on getting industrial hemp as a food source approved for now, as it could create work straight away.

Primary Industries Minister Jeremy Rockliff said the government supported the use of industrial hemp products in food.

"It would open up new markets for the industry and we will continue to lobby strongly for federal approval," he said.

The state government announced on Thursday that it was also taking action to simplify regulation for growing industrial hemp.

The use of industrial hemp as a food source must be approved at a federal level.

Hemp  - it has no hallucinogenic effect.

Hemp - it has no hallucinogenic effect.

The difference between industrial hemp and medicinal cannabis


● Hemp is a cultivated, low-THC variety of cannabis.

● It has no hallucinogenic effect.

● It is grown for its seeds, oil and fibre.

● It could also be used to produce gluten free flour and as a good source of omega 3, 6 and 9, if it was approved as a food source in Australia.

● Industrial hemp has a low THC content (the active chemical to create a hallucinogenic drug) compared to its CBD (cannabidiol) content.

● THC levels have to be below 0.35 per cent in Tasmania. They have to be below one per cent in the rest of the country.

Medicinal cannabis:

● Marijuana is the flowering tops and leaves of psychoactive varieties of Cannabis that are grown for their high THC content.

● It has a hallucinogenic affect because of its THC levels.

● It is grown for medicinal, recreational, and spiritual purposes. 

● It has a high THC (delta-9 tetrahydrocannabinol) content and a low CBD (cannabidiol) content. 

● THC content can be anywhere from three per cent to more than 22 per cent.

● The ratio of CBD to THC is less than one.