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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 1996 Week 5 Hansard (15 May) . . Page.. 1240 ..

MR MOORE (continuing):

We could easily be producing $1.6 billion worth of hemp here for fibre blending and then some more on top of that. We could actually set up a very lucrative export market. When I say "here", I do mean in Australia, not at that level in the ACT. We could increase our capacity to recycle paper. Each time you recycle paper, the fibres that make up the paper become shorter and the quality of the paper deteriorates. To maintain the quality, good, long fibre needs to be continually added.

Until the 1930s more than 5,000 items of commerce were produced by different parts of the hemp plant. The introduction of steam power and the lack of efficient hemp processing machinery led to a decline in its use. It was only in the light of that decline that prohibition was able to take effect. In the United States the cannabis hemp prohibition was instigated in 1938 and was driven by companies with an interest in nylon, which, of course, was a natural fibre substitute. That was instigated by cotton growers and forest concessionaires, including Randolph Hearst who owned a newspaper chain. These people were the main users of chemically treated wood pulp and were major holders of forest licences, and they undertook a campaign of disinformation against cannabis. I would expect that the crops for the next couple of years would be small and experimental. The major goal in the short term would be to find out what varieties of cannabis grow best in the ACT region and develop feasibility studies in paper production in this locality.

There will be people who will predictably claim that growers will be able to hide their high THC plants in amongst their low THC plants. It is clear that other countries and States have not experienced a problem in this regard. Although the plants are of the same species, they are quite different in many ways and the growing methods are different. For fibre production, the usual row spacing is about 15 centimetres, to force the plant to grow long, slender stalks, which is what is required for fibre. For the production of cannabis for drug use, this planting method would hamper flowering and bushy leaf growing. Growing the plants this close together would also result in cross-fertilisation, which would ultimately destroy the potency of the plants.

In the ACT we have some farmers who are keen to grow hemp for paper and also for seed. The technology required is apparently minimal to produce the sort of paper that is expensively imported for use by artists, architects and designers. The quality of paper produced from hemp is such that the texture is very fine, dense and strong. I am a bit disappointed that Mr Osborne is not here; he was certainly here yesterday looking through his Bible. I would have been able to reach across and demonstrate to you the strength of the paper there. Who knows, we may in fact actually start a thriving industry in the ACT region that may inject some sorely-needed alternatives in farming and small business. It may be a way to ensure that we have productive enterprise.

In urging members to support this Bill, I would also say to you that what I have done is introduce a specific way of dealing with cannabis. I am certainly open to amendments, should members feel it appropriate to amend the system so that they feel that it not only is a safer method but also is seen to be safer. I am happy to discuss that with members. I must say that I have been to quite a number of members to discuss this issue and have found widespread conceptual support for the legislation. I would hope that we would be able to get this legislation through the Assembly as soon as possible, by the best

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