Regional Reports


        Australia has allowed hemp cultivation for research purposes since 1991. Below is a brief review of the past results of research projects and their current status, presented state by state.

         Hemp trials have continued in Tasmania since 1991. Over the years, conditions for trialing hemp have not altered, and in fact, authorizations to trial are becoming more difficult to obtain. Patsy and Frits Harmsen of the Tasmanian Hemp Company has been trialing each year. In 1992, the University of Tasmania started trialing through Ph.D. student Shaun Lisson. His degree was finished in 1997, so now only Patsy and Frits continue to trial. A brief history follows.

South Australia
         In 1995, trials on low THC (0.3%) hemp plants were permitted. Only the Yorke Regional Development Board received a license. The South Australian Research and Development Institute and IAMA Technical Services conducted the research. Only French cultivars were trialed. Yields of up to 9.9 t/ha dry weight was obtained. Results are as follows.

         In 1995/96, due to public pressure, ten low THC (0.35%) hemp cultivar trial sites of one-hectare or below were permitted under the Drugs, Poisons and Controlled Substances Act 1981. Individuals or consortia using private funds conducted the trials and an Interdepartmental Hemp Steering Committee drawn from all relevant government departments, plus representatives of the Victorian Farmers Federation and universities was formed to regulate the trials. Security was kept practical and achievable by requiring sites were out of sight of roads, were close to a farmhouse, and were surrounded by lockable gates and either an electric or barbed wire fence. Persons who required unsupervised access to trial sites were obliged to undergo a national police records check. Three hundred expressions of interest were received and forty applications were received by the closing date. Nine sites received authorizations to trial, two dropped out, leaving seven for the first year. Seed was obtained from breeders in France and Hungary. Some French lines were contaminated with soil and some Hungarian seeds had very poor germination (15% for Kompolti). The results were as follows.

        In 1996/97, only five sites were sown. A new source of Kompolti was found. Because the first year was almost trouble free, security provisions were relaxed by not requiring a surrounding fence/site if two padlocked fences lay between the site and the nearest road. The results appear below.

        In 1997, new legislation has been introduced which effectively legalizes industrial hemp in the State of Victoria. Unfortunately this has still not addressed the illegality of transporting material off farm sites, making it extremely difficult to move stalks to end processors.

New South Wales
        In 1995/96, due to public pressure, trials on low THC (0.3%) hemp plants were permitted under the Drug Misuse and Trafficking Act of 1985. Private or public entities using private funds can apply. Trials must be surrounded by man-proof fencing, and require an up-front fee of $1,000. THC levels must be tested twice during the growing period.
     Only one trial commenced at the University of New England under glasshouse conditions, and yielded the following results.

        More than 250 expressions of interest were made, resulting in 20 applications made in 1996/97 and 16 in 1997/98. In 1996/97, four trials proceeded. Two produced no worth-while results, the other two trials produced less than 5 t/ha dry weight. THC content ranged from 0.14% -0.76% across all varieties and sampling dates.
     NSW proves to be the most draconian in its trialing conditions. Although it is stated that crops should be moved to end-users, there are barriers to transporting material off trial sites. NSW is the most secretive about hemp trials. Information is extremely difficult to obtain. Most of the information for this section was derived from a brief presented at a national hemp work party in August 1997.

Western Australia
         In 1996, due to public support, trials on low THC (0.35%) hemp plants were permitted. Licenses were issued to participating farmers and two research officers from Agriculture Western Australia under the Poisons Act of 1964. An Industrial Hemp Steering Committee consisting of representatives from Health, Police, Agriculture and the farming community, was formed to regulate the trials. One hundred and forty expressions of interest were received, 54 applications resulted with eight applicants approved. French and Hungarian cultivars were used. Services were provided by the Agriculture Western Australia coordinators at no charge. Applicants were not permitted to sell any material produced in the trials.
     The overall low yields observed may be due to oven drying, which compare unfavorably with the Victoria air-dried samples. Their efforts yielded the following information.

        European cultivars did not seem to be suited to Western Australian growing conditions. Proposed trials for 1997/98, will include two cultivars from the Netherlands. Only two of the seven trials will continue, but another trial will be initiated in the north where summer rainfall dominates.

         Queensland Cabinet approved hemp trials in June 1997, but they are yet to pass through parliamentary amendments to the Drugs Misuse Act of 1986, which will allow trials to commence. From all indications, trials will be conducted using similar rules and regulations devised by Victoria for their trials. One substantial difference with the legislation passing through Queens-land is the inclusion for allowing cultivars to be imported in from areas with similar latitude and climate to Queensland. To allow these often uncertified seeds in, THC levels of 1% or below are permitted under strict conditions. This will see the first hemp breeding program in Australia. Legislation is expected to pass through parliament in March 1998, in time for plantings in early September 1998.

Carolyn Ditchfield
Australian Hemp Resource and Manufacture
15 Belmont Crescent
Paddington, Queensland 4064, Australia
e-mail: ahrm@hits.net.au


        1997 will be the last season that Canadian hemp farmers will be restricted to police-monitored "strictly experimental" test acreage. New government regulations to permit Canadian grown hemp will soon allow wide open commercial trading for fiber and seed. A streamlined permit system authorized by Health Canada will greatly advance the domestic market here and should be in place in plenty of time for the spring sowing season. Canadian-grown hemp will finally arrive on the "white market" in the autumn of 1998, thanks to new friendships between the hemp lobbyists here and the Federal government. All are delighted with the turn of events that will allow easier access to the first offerings of New World industrial Cannabis.
     During 1997, the Canadian government issued a mere 31 "old style" cultivation permits and only 107.5 hectares of hemp was harvested from crops planted in six provinces. With the "new style" commercial status for hemp looming on the horizon, well over 1,000 hectares of hemp will be growing across Canada next year and estimates for 50,000 hectares before the close of the 20th century are possible.
     Once the safety and integrity of the hemp crop had been amply demonstrated, a startling change in government attitude emerged almost overnight. This new face of compliance is welcomed here, as we are well aware of just how snarled the Americans have made their own hempen debut. In Vancouver last February, at the well attended Commercial Hemp Symposium, agents of the Health Ministry made gestures of accommodation to the rapidly growing domestic hemp marketplace, that seemed to address many of the important aspects of a new way of doing things regarding hemp.
     In March, formal hemp discussion sessions were conducted at the nation’s capitol, Ottawa, where Canadian hemp stakeholders and key government policy makers met to hammer out a comprehensive regulatory framework for hemp that we could all live with. A review of the hemp industry was ordered by Ottawa and a policy reversal took hold almost overnight to free hemp from legislative bondage and let it loose in the field and factory. To ensure eternal safe anchorage in Canadian law, an exception for hemp from pending drug schedules was necessary to accomplish in 1997. The Canadian Industrial Hemp Lobby (CIHL) sought remedy from the Canadian Senate to shepherd difficult legislative linkages in preparation for the total hemp reimplimentations we had dreamed of for decades. In April of this year, the Senators were again asked by the CIHL to intervene in the exhaustive review process, to entice the Federal Health Ministers office to fast track the hemp agenda and hurry up with the regulations, so that hemp farmers may sow in the Spring of 1998.
     In August, the Ontario Minister of Agriculture, Hon. Noble Villeneuve, standing in a field of licensed industrial hemp in southern Ontario, very happily and officially welcomed hemp back into the agricultural system of the province and announced a half-million dollar grant from the public purse towards hemp research and development. There is, apparently, a great swell of support for the hemp initiative within the government and many government agencies and offices are gearing up to interface with hemp.
     The relaxation of the industrial-sized anxiety that goes along with any great change was a signal to leading Canadian financial institutions to move much closer to the hempen highway. They now talk about infrastructure funding, long term contracts and capital investments to keep Canada at the leading edge of hemp excellence. Big is beautiful, and huge is possible at this time of great changes in our natural resource policies. The Bank of Montreal has indicated they will be financing a new hemp primary processing mill in the heart of the provinces’ new hemp growing districts.
     The new commercial hemp licenses looming on the horizon have encouraged a wide variety of preparations by industry insiders who are now approaching the starting gate and will soon be jockeying for position. Hemp farmers are assembling into formal hemp co-operatives to increase their chances of obtaining hemp cultivation permits and financing commitments. Pioneer hemp farmers such as Geof Kime of Hempline and Jean LaPrize of Kenex are shopping for hemp harvesting machinery in Europe or developing their own processing equipment in partnership with leading Canadian agricultural technologists, who see hemp as the crop to get behind, right from the start. Kime and a few others are setting up shop to bring their hemp to American clients who want all the hemp they can get for carpets, wallboard or seed oil. As the United States refuses to make the least accommodation to growing hemp, Canada looks at this as a most delicious opportunity to bring our hemp to this friendly and vast market right next door.
     In anticipation of a commercial hemp "goldrush", a trade magazine for the industry is already in circulation. Commercial Hemp Magazine is a strictly business publication for the industry and hopes to present and champion the causes of Canadian hemp farmers and processors. Marc Emery’s Cannabis Canada magazine continues to grandstand the hope for marijuana as well as act as a cheerfully belligerent Cannabis reform lever that is making a remarkable impact on the social landscape of Canada. The froth that hemp has generated is bubbling over onto this other Cannabis-related issue that is due for review and revision. In September, a constitutional challenge to the marijuana laws in Canada was defeated, but the judge stated that the law was based upon false values and scolded the legislature for failing to remedy the situation. In December, an epileptic man charged with growing marijuana was discharged and was actually ordered to have his medical marijuana plants returned. The Canadian Health Minister stated that fundamental changes in Cannabis laws are long overdue and that research should be resumed.
     The first Canadian hemp stock offering appeared on some regional American commodity stock exchanges over the summer. A Winnipeg consortium which grew experimental hemp last year has attracted financial and marketing players who are setting up as a clearing house/depot for Canadian hemp fiber, seed and oil.
     Western Canada is eager to deliver hemp seed and oil, and Eastern Canada is anxious to spin hemp thread. Considering everything, Canada is in a pretty good position to tackle industrial hemp in a big way next year. Hemp oil is the "opening volley", as Canada looks back at the global success of its last oilseed top seller- the mighty Canola oil, jewel of a Canadian oilseed R & D and marketing program. Hemp might reach these heights of oleo potential in the new climate for change regarding all things Cannabis. The door in Canada is open and this was accomplished with hard-bargained goodwill, attaining at last, the unobstructed opportunity to resume hemp cultivation and market the harvest worldwide.

Roddy Heading
e-mail: rheading@NiagaraNet.npiec.on.ca

United Kingdom

        Hemp production in the UK continues to thrive, with processing and production for a number of products under development. 2,200 hectares of hemp were grown in the UK in 1997, mainly by Hemcore, who have a processing plant in Essex. There has been one disappointment: the fee that growers have to pay to the UK government is proposed to double from £240 to £480 in 1998. This fee covers inspection of the growers and the crop, and is deemed necessary by the Home Office, as hemp is still subject to the 1971 Misuse of Drugs Act.
     The UK crop is still mainly grown to produce horse-bedding from the woody core and specialty paper from the fiber. Bioregional Development, an environmental group, is working with six UK paper companies on a detailed technical and economic study for a pilot mini-mill to pulp hemp, flax and straw to produce quality printing and writing papers. A decision on whether to build the mini-mill will be made in May of 1998. Trial quantities of UK hemp pulp, and the graphics paper made from it, are already being made.
     A new outlet for UK hemp fiber is as a cheaper replacement for glass fiber. Hemcore is working with JB Plant Fibres to produce a 100% hemp non-woven fleece. Ford Motors of UK will be using this hemp composite beginning in January 1998 in the parcel shelf of their Transit van.
     Developments in hemp textiles are proving slower, as hemp fiber is expensive compared to other imported textile fibers, and is coarser. Also, UK processing facilities currently only produce short fiber, not the long parallelized fibers that can be spun into finer count yarns. Despite this, Listers of Bradford have developed a range of hemp-blended fabrics using Hemcore’s hemp. Habitat, a large UK home furnishing retailer, are planning to refurbish their showpiece London store with Listers’ hemp "velvet".

Sue Riddlestone
Bioregional Development Group
e-mail: sueriddlestone@bioregional.com