Last week, a trans-Tasman forum led by an Australian health minister once again blocked an application to allow low tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) hemp as a food ingredient, even though it is legally available in most other countries, in its tracks following years of recommendations by Fsanz, Australia and New Zealand’s food watchdog.
The original application dates back to 2012, with ministers continually asking Fsanz for its opinion on the matter, though each time refusing to accept the food body’s positive assessment.
Cannabidiol’s “confused message”
The ministers had voiced their concerns regarding law enforcement issues, particularly from a policing perspective in relation to roadside drug testing, along with cannabidiol levels and concerns that “the marketing of hemp in food may send a confused message to consumers about the acceptability and safety of cannabis”.
Tasmania, however, seems to be taking matters into its own hands. Over the weekend, the state government outlined reforms it plans to introduce to “simplify regulation and support growth in the industry hemp industry”.
The reforms are part of the Tasmanian Government’s AgriVision 2050 plan, which has been developed to “capitalise on the State’s competitive strengths and create jobs by growing the value of the agricultural sector” in Tasmania to $10bn (US$7.78bn) per year by 2050.
The Tasmanian Government said the industrial hemp industry had the potential to provide value-adding opportunities for Tasmanian farmers. Industrial hemp refers to varieties of cannabis that contain very low levels of delta-9- tetrahydrocannabinol and “at the allowable threshold there are no psychoactive [drug] inducing effects”.
It’s aim, it said, was to “provide sensible and practical regulation without compromising drug law enforcement or public safety”.
Immediate exemption for growers
While the new Act is being developed, the state government plans to immediately introduce a five-year hemp licence to replace the need to apply annually for a 12-month permit. The government said this would immediately lift the regulatory burden on industry.
Human consumption of all cannabis products is currently prohibited under the Australia New Zealand Food Safety Code. Fasnz supports the sale of food derived from hemp with low THC content as it is safe for human consumption at the recommended maximum levels of THC content.
There are adequate controls in place to mitigate the risk of illicit cannabis products entering the market, and the approval should not have an impact on drug enforcement, Tasmania’s government stated.
It added that Tasmania would strongly advocate for federal approval allowing industrial hemp products in food in spite of last week’s ministerial agreement.