The Victorian Farmers Federation (VFF) is backing a private members bill it says will address some of the challenges for farmers in the state wanting to grow hemp.

Industrial hemp has been permitted to be grown in Victoria since 1998, but there are plenty of hurdles farmers must clear to do so.

Hemp Industry Bill 2024 was introduced into the Victorian Parliament by the Legalise Cannabis Party in March this year.  Its aim is to create a standalone Act to deal with industrial hemp, and to amend the Drugs, Poisons and Controlled Substances Act 1981 to repeal “Part IVA—Authorities for low-THC cannabis”.  Tabling of the bill follows a 2023 parliamentary inquiry into industrial hemp in the state.

According to an explanatory memorandum, the bill:

“.. increases the maximum hemp licence term from 3 to 5 years, clarifies fit and proper person requirements, ensures consistent time periods for criminal and police checks, removes inspection and licensing fees, introduces scientific hemp licences, and ensures inspectors prioritise harvest over destruction.”

Destruction may be called upon when crops go “hot”; that is any hemp containing greater than 1.0 per cent THC. The Agricultural Legislation Amendment Act of 2022 increased the maximum THC threshold from 0.35% to 1%.

The Victorian Farmers Federation says the bill would relieve regulatory burdens.

“We know hemp holds vast potential for various applications, including sustainable agriculture and construction materials,” said VFF President Emma Germano. “Removing government barriers, particularly those that are onerous or confusing, will unlock hemp’s full benefits, including the potential for secondary processing and manufacturing.”

The industry certainly needs a helping hand. According to the parliamentary inquiry final report, Victorian farmers contributed around just 8% of Australia’s hemp harvest in the 2022–23 season. In August 2023, there were 42 valid industrial hemp licenses in Victoria, but many of these were inactive. Only six licence holders grew the crop in 2022–23. 169 hectares were planted in 2022–23, compared to 105 hectares in 2021–22 and 243 hectares in 2020–21.

“The laws regarding industrial hemp are not fit for purpose and create an ongoing stigma that links the crop with illicit drugs,” said Ms. Germano.

The VFF has been advocating for Victoria’s farmers since 1979 and has approximately 20 branches across the state.

 The Victorian Farmers Federation is backing a private members bill it says will help address challenges for farmers wanting to grow hemp.  Read More  

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