Tasmania's Hemp Industry: A Call for Change
In the picturesque island state of Tasmania, two pioneering hemp business owners, Andi Lucas of X-Hemp and Tim Crow of Hemp Harvests, are at the forefront of a burgeoning industry. Their recent interview with ABC News sheds light on the pressing need for regulatory reforms in the Tasmanian hemp sector.
The Current State of Hemp Regulations
Lucas, also the president of the Tasmanian Hemp Association, voices a common frustration among hemp entrepreneurs. "I’m effectively being treated as though I’m dealing with some sort of narcotic when in actual fact it’s a crop like grain, or barley, or wheat," she remarks. This sentiment echoes the challenges faced by many in the industry, navigating a regulatory landscape that has not kept pace with the agricultural nature of hemp.
In November 2023, the Tasmanian government introduced the Industrial Hemp Amendment Bill 2023, aiming to amend the 2015 Industrial Hemp Act and the Industrial Hemp Amendment Regulations 2016. Jo Palmer, the Minister for Primary Industries and Water, emphasized the government's commitment to enhancing the hemp industry, stating, "Proposed amendments will improve clarity, efficiency, and transparency for licensees."
Innovations in Hemp Processing
X-Hemp, Tasmania's only cannabis fiber processing mill, represents a significant stride in the industry. The company, founded by Lucas, collaborates with local hemp farmers to transform hemp grain stubble, previously considered waste, into valuable products. These include building materials, landscaping mulch, specialty paper bast, and alternative uses like animal bedding.
Lucas highlights the advantages of hempcrete, a sustainable building material. "Hempcrete as a building material is highly insulating, it’s non-combustible, so it actually won’t ignite," she explains. This makes it an ideal choice for bushfire-prone areas and those seeking environmentally sustainable construction options.
One notable project involving X-Hemp is the construction of the University of Tasmania’s forestry building, set to be the largest hempcrete building in the southern hemisphere. This project underscores the local and sustainable nature of hemp production in Tasmania.
Hemp Harvests: Pioneering Hemp Seed Processing
Tim Crow's Hemp Harvests focuses on processing hemp seeds into products like hemp seed hearts, hemp protein concentrate, and hemp seed oil. Crow's insights from his travels in Europe highlight the mainstream acceptance of hemp, with its fibers used in various industries, including automotive and insulation.
He also notes the evolving hemp markets in North America and Canada, where investment in hemp fiber for building materials and natural insulation is growing.
The Economic Potential of Hemp
The shelving of the Tasmanian Industrial Hemp Amendment Bill 2023 last November was a setback, yet the government acknowledges the industry's potential. By 2050, the industrial hemp industry could be worth $10 billion, contributing significantly to Tasmania's sustainability goals.
Australians' support for cannabis is evident, with a YouGov poll showing 50% in favor of legalizing the cultivation of up to six cannabis plants for personal use. Additionally, 54% support decriminalization. This public sentiment, coupled with the economic potential, underscores the need for regulatory reform.
The Global Context
Australia's progressive stance on cannabis and related substances is notable. In July, Australia became the first country to allow doctors to prescribe psilocybin and MDMA therapy. This decision reflects a growing recognition of the potential benefits of these substances when used responsibly.
If recreational cannabis were legalized nationwide, a May 2023 report suggests the industry could generate $243.5 million annually within five years. This highlights the economic impact of a regulated cannabis industry.
The call for regulatory reform in Tasmania's hemp industry is more than a local issue; it's a reflection of a global shift towards recognizing the value of hemp. As Lucas and Crow advocate for change, their efforts resonate with a broader movement seeking to harness the potential of this versatile crop for sustainable development and economic growth.