THE state’s hemp farmers says a failed bid to legalise the crop as a food product could cost the industry millions of dollars in coming years.
Despite lobbying by the state government, a meeting of Australian and New Zealand health ministers yesterday voted against a move to make low-THC hemp legal for human consumption.
The meeting cited concerns regarding law enforcement, roadside drug testing and marketing.
Industrial Hemp Association of Tasmania president Phil Reader said if approved as a food, the state’s industry could have doubled or tripled in size from a current value of about $600,000 a year.
‘‘It just seems so surprising that there has been so much evidence from around the country and they have still made this decision,’’ he said.
Mr Reader said Australia was now one of very few countries in the world that banned hemp from food.
He said hemp was rich in omega 3 and omega 6 and had potential uses as a protein supplement and as a flour substitute for people with gluten intolerance.
Lyons Liberal MHR Eric Hutchinson said the decision was hugely disappointing.
‘‘In the past six months, I’ve written to the Prime Minister Tony Abbott and all the state health ministers seeking their support. That’s why it is so disappointing,’’ he said.
‘‘This decision in New Zealand today is bureaucratic bungling at its worst.’’
Mr Hutchinson said it was a ‘‘tragic irony’’ that imported food products containing hemp could be bought in Tasmania.
Agriculture Minister Jeremy Rockliff pledged to keep lobbying other states and the Commonwealth.
‘‘There is huge potential for our industrial hemp industry, especially through the enabling of an Australasian market, and we will be exploring all of our options,’’ he said.
‘‘The Liberal government is committed to the industry, just yesterday I announced we have taken action to implement significant reforms that will make it easier for our farmers to grow industrial hemp.’’