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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2004 Week 7 Hansard (30 July) . . Page.. 3010..


MRS BURKE (continuing):

Let me now turn to the economic benefits of cultivating industrial hemp. Industrial hemp, as a raw material, is undergoing a resurgence in Europe with farmers, governments and private sector corporate interests becoming increasingly involved. The Netherlands has led the way with its agricultural research department, which is reinvigorating hemp as an ecologically sound crop with a multitude of industrial applications.

A great deal of research has also been done on industrial hemp in Italy, England and Portugal. For instance, England re-legalised hemp for fibre in 1993 and now joins France, Ukraine, Italy, Spain, Turkey and China as legal suppliers. After speaking to ACT industry and other interested stakeholders, clearly the cultivation of industrial hemp is extremely exciting and has significant support. The nub of the issue is that the cultivation of industrial hemp in the ACT will, without a doubt, employ people and provide an added, unique and much-needed industry.

The spin-offs are vast. Farmers will be provided with an alternative crop choice that, once the industry is established, could provide quite substantial benefits. As I have mentioned already, the environment would certainly be looked after through the cultivation of industrial hemp; the retail sector is also set to reap significant benefits that have already been evidenced overseas; and, of course, industrial hemp provides a number of significant benefits to the tourism industry, manufacturing sector, building industry and the education sector, particularly through vocational education and training.

With regard to vocational education and training, I can tell the Assembly today that there are training based organisations in the ACT that have already developed and tailored training programs in the hope that a bill such as this is passed by the Assembly. The current situation in Australia and worldwide is exciting and as a territory there is no reason that we cannot jump on board.

Currently in Australia, research crops of industrial hemp are allowed and in Victoria, Tasmania and Queensland commercial production is now licensed. Internationally, outside of the countries I have already mentioned, some 26 countries cultivate hemp for commercial production. In fact, religious tradition has it that the Japanese Emperor wears hemp garments.

We need to look, obviously, at the legal concerns. In conclusion, it is important to highlight that this bill in no way condones the use of cannabis as an illicit drug. As members will see, the bill facilitates, through the issuing of licences, the cultivation of industrial hemp with a THC content of no more 0.5 per cent. Evidence shows that to get any sort of "high"-rather more likely to be a huge headache!-from industrial hemp, a person would literally have to smoke a paddock full of it, and we know that that is not possible.

Secondly, for those concerned with illicit drug use as a result of the cultivation of industrial hemp in the ACT, I would suggest that they drive through Tasmania to see hectare after hectare of pure opium poppies. To my knowledge, heroin users have not all moved to Tasmania to steal poppies that could easily be turned into heroin nor have crime enforcement agencies like the police experienced significant concerns as a direct result of Tasmania being one of the largest, if not the largest, pure opium poppy grower


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