Proposed changes to Tasmanian hemp law aimed at smoothing path for producers

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The government of Tasmania said it is working to simplify things for hemp producers after a comprehensive review of the state’s Industrial Hemp Act 2015.

Jane Howlett, Minister for Primary Industries and Water, said an amendment recently presented to the Legislative Council, the upper house of the state parliament, demonstrates the government’s commitment to work with hemp stakeholders to support growth and streamline regulation.

The government hopes the changes, related to licensing issues, research, and expanded usage for hemp crops, will help to revive a sector that has fallen off precipitously over the last four years. A recent report showed that Tasmanian hemp fields remained severely contracted in the 2023-2024 season, with just 90 hectares planted, down from a high of 1,500 hectares at a peak in 2019-2020.

‘Committed’ to hemp

“The government has committed to support the hemp industry to advocate nationally for complementary pathways, compliant with the Commonwealth Drug Regulatory Scheme, to potentially allow for greater use of non-medicinal products from industrial hemp such as extracts and resins,” Howlett said.

Howlett said most issues raised by stakeholders in the review can be addressed by updating policy and conditions relevant to the industry, work that is underway.

Proposed changes

Aimed at “improved clarity, efficiency, and transparency for licensees,” the proposed changes include:

  • Better transparency in situations where hemp crops test above 1% THC content, the dividing line between hemp and marijuana observed by Australian states. The bill calls for the secretary of the Department of Natural Resources and Environment (NRE Tas) to direct crop destruction or alternative actions where a crop that tests above the THC limit has been “grown in good faith” by a licensee who “has otherwise complied with the license conditions.”
  • Specifying that police officers should be considered classified inspectors under so that they may conduct investigations without needing to be appointed by the NRE Tas secretary.
  • Greater consistency with existing legislation in relation to police powers, the assessment of suitability of applicants, and definitions for “fit and proper persons” for licensing applicants.
  • Authorizing police officers “to possess and supply industrial hemp.”
  • Renaming of a “special license” to a “special research license” for permits that allow research into hemp varieties that have more than 1% THC, setting criteria for those licenses and providing more efficient review of applications.
  • Allowing hemp straw to be used as a mulch in the horticultural industries. The change would give growers an additional income stream and enable hemp by-product to be better used in a circular economy, Howlett said. The state government is already allowing a pilot scheme that allows the use of hemp stubble as mulch.

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