Senator Peter Whish-Wilson has suggested Tasmanian farmers consider moving into hemp and medicinal cannabis rather than poppies as further American pharmaceutical companies face multi-billion dollar settlements.
Purdue Pharma, which makes the prescription painkiller OxyContin, this week offered a $12 billion settlement for more than 2000 lawsuits and included a bankruptcy filing as a result of the addiction crisis that has claimed at least 400,000 lives.
It came a few days after Johnson & Johnson was ordered to pay $A874 million by an Oklahoma court for fuelling the state's addiction crisis, with Tasmanian Alkaloids as its main supplier of poppies singled out in the judgement.
The ruling could have implications in other states.
Senator Whish-Wilson said while opioids had legitimate uses in pain management, farmers needed to consider the ramifications of further legal action constricting the market.
"We can expect even tougher regulations, and the demand for opioids is going to drop off even further," he said.
"They're legitimate prescription drugs, but because they are so addictive and regulations have been so lax, people have become hooked on it and moved into unregulated markets when their prescription ended, then overdosed."
Tasmanian poppy production has decreased from 30,000 hectares in 2012 to about 12,000 hectares in 2019 as a result of falling prices and declining demand.
Senator Whish-Wilson said there was another solution to farmers wanting to diversify their crops: hemp seed and supplying medicinal cannabis.
"A lot of conservative politicians have concerns around medicinal cannabis, but the legitimate market of opioids that we're supplying has played a part in the deaths of 400,000 people," he said.
"Tasmanian farmers should be thinking about diversifying their risk and planting other crops like hemp seed."
Tasmania's poppy industry has been a part of the farming landscape since the 1960s and supplies over half of the world's demand for alkaloids.
Tasmanian Alkaloids' processing plant is in Westbury.
Former poppy farmer and Meander Valley Council mayor Wayne Johnston said Tasmanian farmers were not responsible for lax regulations on the other side of the world.
"Tas Alkaloids employ a lot of people in the Meander Valley. As mayor of Meander Valley, I want to make sure that their reputation and our reputation isn't tarred by something that's happened on the other side of the world, which we really have no control over," he said.
"Here in Tasmania we've got the cleanest air and some of the best water in the world - the best farmers in the world - and we're being tarnished.
"Peter Whish-Wilson should hang his head in shame about the comments he made about Tasmanian farmers."