“It’s about time,” says Mr. Kovess, a member of the Australian Industrial Hemp Alliance after government confirmed that health foods with hemp seed are legal.
The decision from the Australian state and federal health ministers comes after the Food Standards Australia, and New Zealand (FSANZ) concluded that hemp, which contains low levels of THC, is safe for human consumption.
The end of a long battle
Government has consistently rejected any attempts to get hemp seed foods approved since 2002. Swinburne University triggered the change by proving that eating hemp seed foods didn’t lead to positive test results for THC in saliva, blood or urine.
Chief executive of Hemp Foods Australia, Paul Benhaim, says it is fantastic news because although Australia has been exporting food products containing hemp, only “external use” was legal domestically. He has been lobbying for this change for 17 years. FSANZ proposed the amendment more than a decade ago, but ministers were afraid that roadside drug tests would lead to positive THC results.
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Not to be labeled as marijuana
The labels on hemp food products may not contain the words cannabis or marijuana according to the new laws. Although industrial hemp is also of the genus cannabis, it contains as little as 0.03% THC. Recreational cannabis, on the other hand, contains much higher levels of THC.
Hemp seeds are a great source of vitamins, omega-3 fatty acids, and other polyunsaturated fatty acids, which reduce “bad” LDL cholesterol. Omega-3 is also believed to reduce the risk of heart disease, says Dr. Trent Watson, from the Dieticians Association of Australia.
Hemp seed protein
Dr. Watson explains that 30 grams of seeds from the hemp plant, or a tablespoon full provides 11 grams of protein, which is nearly equal to the protein content of two eggs. It is one of the few plant-based foods that contains all the essential amino acids. According to health food experts, hemp seed is a nutritious “superfood”.
Benhaim dominates 80% of the local hemp market. He expects his business to quadruple over the next 12 months. Hemp food products will soon be available in supermarkets, delicatessens, and juice shops. As a result, hemp growers will see a huge increase in demand.
Positive economic impact
Mr. Kovess expects the decision to benefit the small hemp industry of Australia immensely. The international market is currently estimated at $1 billion annually.
Harry Youngman, a hemp farmer from Victoria, says he foresees exciting times ahead for the hemp industry. He expects demand to grow dramatically as people begin rediscovering the many uses of hemp and hemp seed.
Better late than never
Even though it took 17 years to change things around for the hemp industry in Australia, local hemp producers are optimistic.
Hemp has many uses including medicinal ones. Unfortunately, the hemp seed reprieve won’t improve access to CBD oil from hemp, an issue that has been a bone of contention for years. But who knows? Maybe that will come next.