The Legalise Cannabis Party is calling on the Victorian government to support an industrial hemp bill that will help farmers and processors to expand their share of the $7 billion global hemp market – forecast to grow to $18.6 billion by 2027.

Legalise Cannabis introduced the Hemp Industry Bill and the state’s upper house will debate it on Wednesday, May 15. A showcase of hemp products (including textiles, foods, and building materials) will be in the Federation Room, Victorian Parliament on Tuesday, May 14.

Victoria is out of step with other Australian states

Legalise Cannabis MP Rachel Payne said Victoria was out of step with most Australian states, which have industrial hemp laws supporting the production and processing of hemp.

“If Victoria is serious about supporting Anthony Albanese’s ‘Future of Made in Australia’ then the Allan government must back this Hemp Industry Bill,” Ms Payne said. “While Victoria is lagging, China is planting 1.3 million hectares of hemp by 2030. Historically most of the crop is used in textiles. Hemp needs only a third of the water of cotton so it is a sound investment.”

Hemp stores emissions

Europe enlarged its crop by 60 per cent over the past six years to 33,020 hectares, while Victoria has 169 hectares of hemp.

“Hemp stores emissions – one hectare sequesters up to 22 tonnes of CO2, and hemp is susceptible to few pests so needs no pesticide. Europe is growing more to meet its green-deal objectives, and the US and Canada are also fast planting more.

Unnecessary ‘stigma’ deters farmers

Legalise Cannabis MP David Ettershank said Victoria was being left behind because potential growers and investors were ‘put off’ by the uncalled-for stigma of cannabis, still classified as an illegal drug.

“Hemp comes from the cannabis sativa plant but has only miniscule quantities of the psychoactive compound tetrahydrocannabinol (THC),” he said.

“If you were to consume hemp, it has only traces of THC so produces no effect, yet it’s listed under the Drugs, Poisons and Controlled Substance Act 1981 – farmers need a licence to grow it and must pay inspection fees.”  

Hemp is not a drug

Hemp farmers told a 2023 hemp parliamentary committee inquiry* that the crop was ‘not a drug’.

Lyn Stephenson is a hemp farmer and heads the organisation, Regenerative Hemp Victoria, representing farmers and processors.

“You can think about hemp like mushrooms, you don’t need a licence to grow Swiss brown or portobello mushrooms,” she said, “but you can get psychedelic mushrooms, so why do farmers need a licence to grow hemp. This is a crop. It has no psychoactive effects.”

The proposed bill would remove hemp from the Drugs, Poisons and Controlled Substance Act 1981 as well as steam-line licence requirements and reduce charges for farmers.

“With hemp, our state can meet the growing need for building materials and fibre pulp,” Ms Payne said.

“We need the government to support this Bill – it will kickstart a new era in Victoria’s fibre future with a boost to industrial hemp. All around the world the hemp industry is re-emerging and flourishing – but in Victoria we are lagging behind.”

“Pass this bill because it is sensible policy, and the world wants hemp – it’s a super crop,” Mr Ettershank said.
The advantages of hemp

  • Protein-rich hemp seeds are used in food and cosmetics. Hemp seeds have more protein than beef. There’s increased consumer appetite for natural and organic food around the world.
  • Hemp can be used as a substitute for fossil-fuel based synthetic and plastic materials, meaning it could be used in food coverings, nappies and hygiene products.
  • Using hemp as a rotational crop, increases soil organic matter, boosts water retention and promotes higher crop yields.
  • Hemp can be used to manufacture building materials, like insulation, bricks and hemp rebar, an alternative to steel. Hemp building materials are fire resistant, mould resistant and vermin proof.
  • Australian builders are heavily reliant on imports of construction materials.
  • iHemp (representing growers, processors, manufacturers, wholesalers, retailers told the parliamentary inquiry that hemp, like timber, is a chip and pulp industry so Victorian logging communities could have a new income, once native logging ends. Domestic manufacturing of building materials like hempcrete can lead to faster production, cheaper costs and greater quality control. 
  • Pine woods takes 15 years to grow, hemp grows in 100 days.

*Parliament’s Economy and Infrastructure Committee released the ‘Industrial hemp industry in Victoria’ report in November 2023.

Similar Posts