Motion to legalise hemp food passes NSW upper house

A GREENS motion to legalise the hemp food industry in New South Wales has been passed by the Legislative Council despite government opposition.

Greens MP Jeremy Buckingham called for parliament to recognise NSW was missing out on a billion dollar industry that could bring huge agricultural benefits.

"In NSW it is already legal, under licence from the DPI, to grow industrial hemp," he said.

"But we have a situation whereby that hemp can only be harvested for its fibre component.

"And that is just not good enough."

Mr Buckingham said world hemp seed production in 2010 was estimated to be 67,000 tonnes with China accounting for 70% of world production, followed by Canada and France.

"The Canadian Government estimates hemp seed prices received by producers in 2010 ranged from (in Canadian dollars) $1433 per tonne to $2205 per tonne," he added.

"That is an absolute bonanza."

The hemp industry in Australia is only currently worth $13 million but would quadruple in a year if food production was allowed, Mr Buckingham said.

Industrial hemp growers currently have to import seeds from overseas, and much of their produce is wasted.

Food Standards Australia and New Zealand has twice recommended hemp's legalisation for food, in 2012 and 2015, noting that the low amount of psychoactive constituent THC meant it could not get consumers high or trigger false positives on saliva drug tests.

"You could smoke or eat many kilograms of hemp and you would never get high," Mr Buckingham said.

"The cane farmers are very keen to get going on this."

Nationals MP Richard Colless said the government opposed the motion because it was already "working proactively in this space".

But Mr Buckingham said bureaucracy was weighing the process down.

The Greens had believed they had government support until shortly before parliament sat.

It was Christian Democrats leader Reverend Fred Nile's support which ultimately got the motion over the line.

Curiously, the Shooters and Fishers - which has applied to rename itself to the Shooters, Fishers and Farmers Party - did not sit in on the debate or cast a vote.

The motion was passed with 17 votes in the affirmative and 16 in the negative.

The issue will come back before the Council of Australian Governments for debate, where Queensland and New South Wales have typically been the sticks in the mud stopping other states from allowing it to go ahead.

Fears about roadside drug testing have largely been responsible for the states' reluctance to legalise hemp food production and consumption. -APN NEWSDESK

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