The Government is delivering on its commitment to “work with the hemp industry to explore options to support future growth and streamline regulation”.
After completing a review of the Industrial Hemp Act 2015, the Government is making improvements to industrial hemp policy and licensing to support industry priorities and enable growers to use more of the plant and to value-add, while maintaining efficient enforcement of illicit cannabis activities. The Government has also proposed minor legislative amendments to address regulatory gaps, and improve the clarity, efficiency and transparency of certain parts of the Act.
The Department of Natural Resources and Environment Tasmania (NRE Tas) will consult key stakeholders, including the Tasmanian Hemp Association, to develop policy and implement licencing improvements prior to the 2024 growing season.
What is the Government proposing to do?
Because the Act is broadly framed, it already provides scope for greater whole of plant use which industry is seeking.
Most of the detail for the licensing scheme is contained in licence conditions. This allows flexibility but also requires clear, transparent and accessible supporting policy to guide and inform licensees of their obligations and assist them to maximise the use of their crop. Most issues raised by stakeholders can be addressed by updating the licence conditions to clarify for industry the scope of activities covered, and by developing and publishing supporting policy to inform better regulation.
Proposed minor amendments to the Industrial Hemp Act 2015 (the Act) are intended to improve the Act’s effectiveness by clarifying key issues and to address regulatory gaps, while keeping the original intent of the Act by maintaining a simple licensing scheme that supports industry growth.
To complement the legislation, updated Regulations (the amended Industrial Hemp Regulations 2016) will improve transparency and clarity for industry on the assessment process for special research licences.
Can I produce both medicinal and non-medicinal products from my industrial hemp crop?
NRE Tas will update the licence conditions to clarify that industrial hemp licensees who also have a medicinal cannabis licence from the Australian Government can use the same crop for both industrial and medicinal products. This is known as “dual licencing”. NRE Tas will consult the Tasmanian Hemp Association and the Australian Government’s Office of Drug Control to develop and publish a policy for dual licence crops.
Can I have an industrial hemp licence and supply industrial hemp seed and/or material to a medicinal cannabis licence-holder?
This will be covered by the “dual licencing” arrangements to be developed by NRE Tas. Note that the Australian Government’s Office of Drug Control (ODC) advises that medicinal cannabis material must be covered by an appropriate medicinal cannabis licence and permit at all stages in the production process. For more information about medicinal cannabis licencing contact the ODC at www.odc.gov.au
Can I supply (or use) raw hemp by-product as a horticultural mulch and/or compost?
After industrial hemp seed is harvested, there is a large amount of residue or by-product (i.e. hemp stalks) left over that could potentially be used as a horticultural mulch or compost. Hemp stalks may include some viable seeds which could germinate volunteer plants. Existing licensees who grow industrial hemp may already use raw hemp by-product as a mulch or compost material on their premises. A potential value-add pathway for Tasmania’s industry is to enable the supply of raw (untreated) hemp bales to licenced persons for use as horticultural mulch in orchards, vineyards and as a composting material. This would also reduce waste and contribute to a circular economy.
NRE Tas will establish a licence pathway and work with the THA on a pilot to licence the supply of raw (untreated) hemp bales to licenced persons as a horticultural mulch or compost on selected properties. Licensees would need to ensure the destruction of volunteer plants, which is an existing licence condition.
A pilot approach initially will help to determine the potential demand and the additional compliance and monitoring requirements.
Can I cultivate hemp as a cover crop?
NRE Tas will update licence conditions to clarify that industrial hemp can be cultivated as a cover crop (to retain soil moisture, reduce erosion, improve soil health, etc.). NRE Tas will develop a policy for cultivating industrial hemp as a cover crop in consultation with the Tasmanian Hemp Association.
Can I use hemp as animal feed?
Non-viable (hulled) industrial hemp seed and hemp seed oil, and harvested hemp stalks with all leaves, flowers or seeds removed can safely be fed to animals due to the low risk of THC contamination from these parts of the plant. However, the vegetative parts (green leaves, stems and flowers) of the industrial hemp plant may contain low levels of THC which could concentrate (or bioaccumulate) in animal tissues and transfer to animal products for human consumption such as milk or meat.
The Food Safety Australia and New Zealand (FSANZ) Food Standards Code does not allow any tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) – the psycho-active compound of cannabis – to be present in animal products for human consumption.
Current Australian research is underway to better understand the bioaccumulation of THC in animals, the potential transfer of THC to animal products and to develop advice on recommended withholding periods for hemp-grazed livestock.
To assist licensees to comply with the FSANZ Food Standards Code for zero THC in animal products, NRE Tas will update the licence conditions to clarify that:
- animals may be fed non-viable hemp seed, hemp seed oil and harvested or treated hemp stalks with all leaves, flowerheads and seeds removed; and
- food-producing animals are not to be fed industrial hemp leaves, stems and flowers, unless authorised under a research project.
NRE Tas will develop a policy on feeding industrial hemp to animals in consultation with the Tasmanian Hemp Association. It is expected this policy will be reviewed once there is nationally agreed advice on withholding periods for hemp-grazed livestock.
Can I grow hemp for research purposes?
Research into industrial hemp varieties can already take place under existing Regulations. The Tasmanian Government has proposed amendments to the Act and in Regulation to clarify the requirements that need to be met for a special research licence. Special research licences enable research into hemp varieties which have more than 1% THC, to ultimately develop an industrial hemp cultivar below 1% THC with desirable characteristics such as disease tolerance or greater yield.
A proposed new special research licence Regulation will require applicants to demonstrate:
a scientifically valid research method and approach;
the potential benefits of the research to the industrial hemp industry; and
appropriate safety and security measures will be put in place to minimise the risk of theft or unauthorised access.
How can I know about the criteria and process used to assess applicant suitability to hold a hemp licence?
The Tasmanian Government has proposed amendments to the Act to establish a definition for a fit and proper person or responsible officer, consistent with the criteria used for poppy licences. The proposed amendment includes information sharing and information security protocols for the assessment of applications.
What happens if my industrial hemp crop accidentally exceeds 1% THC?
In rare circumstances an industrial hemp crop may test over 1% THC, which means it no longer meets the definition of industrial hemp. The Act includes a provision for crop forfeiture or other action including destruction where a licensee has been found guilty by a court of an offence under the Act, or where the licence has been revoked.
The Government has proposed amendments to the Act to allow for scenarios where a crop that tests above 1% THC has been grown in good faith and the licensee has otherwise complied with the licence conditions. Enabling the Secretary to direct action other than destruction in these cases would reduce wastage and minimise the financial impact on growers. An alternative to crop destruction could be to allow some parts of the crop to be used for fibre, or as horticultural mulch or compost. An important aspect of this proposed amendment is that the licensee has access to a timely and fair review process.
Can I produce low-THC extracts or resins from industrial hemp biomass (i.e. stem, leaves, flowers or roots) for non-medicinal purposes?
Australian Government regulation defines any extract of cannabis (apart from hemp seed oil) as a drug, regardless of its proposed use. Non-medicinal extracts currently cannot be authorised under a Tasmanian industrial hemp licence or a Commonwealth medicinal cannabis licence. This issue requires a coordinated, industry-led approach at the national level.
A related query on the non-medicinal use of resin derived from industrial hemp has only recently been raised by industry. NRE Tas is seeking advice from the Australian Government’s Office of Drug Control to clarify the status of resins, but notes that the UN Single Convention defines extracts and resins of cannabis as a drug.
Non-medicinal extracts and resins derived from industrial hemp is an issue that requires a coordinated, national, industry-led approach. The Tasmanian Government supports industry-led advocacy to resolve this issue at a national level.
How can industrial hemp be removed from the legislated definition of cannabis in the Misuse of Drugs Act 2001 and the Poisons Act 1971?
Excluding industrial hemp from the legislated definition of cannabis in the Poisons Act 1971 would create inconsistences with the national Poisons Standard, which regulates access to and use of cannabinoids. Any inconsistency with the Poisons Standard may affect Tasmania’s compliance with the Narcotic Drugs Act 1967 (Cwth) and the international drug control framework, the United Nations Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs 1961. Ongoing compliance with the drug control framework is important to maintain confidence in Tasmania’s poppy industry, one of the world’s largest producers of licit poppy material with a farm gate value of approximately $45 million in 2020-21.
It is also important to ensure that illicit cannabis can continue to be efficiently and effectively policed. Excluding industrial hemp from the legislated definition of cannabis in the Misuse of Drugs Act 2001 would cause an additional policing burden, requiring Tasmania Police to prove that illicit cannabis is not industrial hemp.