Hemp Farmer, Andrew Kavasilas, inspects his crop at one of two hemp farms on the Northern Rivers. Photo Jerad Williams / The Northern Star
Hemp Farmer, Andrew Kavasilas, inspects his crop at one of two hemp farms on the Northern Rivers. Photo Jerad Williams / The Northern Star Jerad Williams

Local hemp farmer labels Green hemp food bill a “stunt”

A MOTION passed in the NSW Upper House last week to legalise hemp as food has been described as practically pointless and "sort of like stunt" by a leading Northern Rivers hemp grower.

Hemp farmer Andrew Kavasilas cultivates industrial hemp in the Mallanganee area and believes legalising hemp seeds as food is an essential step in the establishment of a viable Australian hemp industry.

But Mr Kavasilas said he bore no illusions about the impact of last week's bill introduced to the Upper House by NSW Greens MLC Jeremy Buckingham.

"It was never going to go anywhere," Mr Kavasilas said.

The bill was pointless because it would have "no chance" of getting through the Lower House, Mr Kavasilas said, as Coalition MPs would vote against it.

Mr Kavasilas said the true power behind the legal status of hemp food was the Australia and New Zealand Ministerial Forum on Food Regulation, which meets evert six months and has consistently rejected changes to current laws on the negative advice of police in multiple states.

The meeting is attended by State Health Ministers, the NSW Primary Industry Minister and chaired by the Federal Parliamentary Secretary for Health

Mr Kavasilas has filed freedom of information requests which he said revealed the extent of police lobbying against the legalisation of hemp seeds because of fears they would trigger false positives in the widely criticised saliva testing regime.

"It's obvious where the hold-up is coming from," he said.

"The constraints and arguments put up by police make (the Ministerial Forum) unable to (recommend legalisation)," he said.

This despite the food authority Food Standards Australia and New Zealand more than once recommending hemp seeds were acceptable as food due to the negligible concentrations of the psychoactive component in cannabis, THC, present in seeds.

But Mr Kavasilas said even the tiny concentrations, which would need someone to ingest thousands upon thousands of seeds to get "stoned", were too much for police because of the over-sensitivity of the saliva testing regime.

"And at the moment we still have the Federal Government having a complete ban on hemp foods saying they would contravene the UN drug conventions," he said.

The consequence was the stunting of a viable niche hemp industry in Australia which could mean millions of dollars in clean, green organic profits.

Australian hemp growers, he said, were well placed to capitalise on hemp foods because of the higher quality demanded by the market compared to hemp as fibre.

He predicted the hemp industry could become like the Australian olive oil industry, which markets a superior product to cheap Spanish and Italian imports.

"(But) we can't attract investment and resources to farming it if it's still illegal," he said.



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