Support for industrial hemp and medicinal cannabis

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The state government wants to increase the THC content in industrial hemp while the federal government says it will allow the export of medicinal cannabis. File pictures

IN a move to grow the state’s hemp industry and regional jobs the McGowan Government will allow the THC content in industrial hemp to be increased.

There are an estimated 25,000 to 50,000 end uses of industrial hemp under the broad categories of paper, textiles, food, building materials, cosmetics, plastics and biofuel.

Agriculture and Food Minister Alannah MacTiernan said while there were 42 commercial hemp licensees in WA, largely focused on small-scale production increasing the maximum THC concentration could help to drive new growth and job opportunities in the fledgling industry.

Ms MacTiernan said the government would have to amend the Industrial Hemp Act 2004 to allow hemp to be grown with a tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) content of up to one per cent as at  present the Act only permitted hemp with a THC content below 0.35 per cent.

Changes to the Food Standards and Australia and New Zealand Code in November 2017 permit the sale of food products derived from hemp seed with a THC content of up to one per cent.

She said amending legislation on maximum THC concentration in line with national standards was expected to increase the number of varieties available for industrial hemp production in WA, particularly in food production through hemp seeds.

On Thursday, February 22 Ms MacTiernan hosted a roundtable of WA hemp growers, processors and researchers to identify key opportunities for the industry.

“Interest in WA’s hemp industry has never been higher, the first WA hemp food and drink products are appearing in the market and we want to support development of this job-creating industry,’’ she said.

“This amendment will bring WA into line with national standards, and allow our producers to grow a far greater variety of hemp products in WA.

“We see real potential for a scale-up of hemp production in WA to commercial levels, helping to create jobs in agriculture and processing right across the regions.”

The first WA hemp food and drink products are appearing in the market, according to Agriculture and Food Minister Alannah MacTiernan.
The first WA hemp food and drink products are appearing in the market, according to Agriculture and Food Minister Alannah MacTiernan.

Meanwhile, AusCann chairman and former Moore MHR Mal Washer said an announcement in January by federal Health Minister Greg Hunt that export of Australian manufactured cannabinoid medicines would be allowed was a major boost.

Dr Washer said there was still work to do to streamline patient access but changes in the regulatory framework of Australia had been positive since the amendments to the Narcotic Drugs Act in late 2016. He said while the process was frustrating they continued to work with the government, doctors and industry groups to improve access and ensure the focus was on the patient.

He cautioned patients against getting so frustrated with the process that they turned to the illicit market and said some recent articles had misrepresented statements by him or been written in such a way as to be open to misinterpretation.

“The only way forward is a controlled industry, where products are subject to quality requirements appropriate for a medicine,’’ he said. “As a GP I was aware that many of my patients sought out illicit cannabis for pain and nausea relief, to help them sleep, to calm their anxiety – particularly when they were palliative and nothing else worked for them.

“Most doctors will be in the same position.

“But I have never advocated the use of illicit cannabis or been involved in it.

“The whole point of AusCann is to enable patients to legally source a safe product.”