Since March, it has been legal to grow industrial hemp in the Australian state of Western Australia. The state's Industrial Hemp Act came into effect on March 19 (http://stopthedrugwar.org/chronicle/330/westernau.shtml), but no one is growing hemp because state authorities are refusing to grant licenses to potential hemp growers who have cannabis-related criminal records, the Perth Sunday Times reported this week.
The six-month-old law allows for the cultivation and processing of industrial hemp with a THC level of less than 0.35%. The low THC level mandate will guarantee that no one will enjoy psychoactive effects by ingesting the hemp in any manner.
According to the Sunday Times, Perth businessman Kim Hough, the proprietor of Hemp Resources, was poised to begin industrial hemp production, but his plans were halted when the Department of Agriculture rejected Hemp Resources' license application. Registrar of Hemp Mark Holland told the newspaper the application was rejected because two of Hemp Resources' directors and an associate had criminal convictions.
Under the Industrial Hemp Act, applicants with "serious" drug offenses cannot be granted a license. The convictions of the Hemp Resources people were "minor cannabis-related offenses," the Sunday Times reported. But Holland did not use the "serious" drug offense clause; instead, he rejected the application because Houghton and his crew "are not of good character and repute."
"The opportunities for misuse of that license (by Hemp Resources) are obvious," Holland wrote in rejecting the application. "Its grant would provide a cover for a person seeking to grow and sell cannabis, other than industrial hemp."
But, as Hough pointed out to the Sunday Times, Holland was merely displaying his lack of knowledge about cannabis. "Hemp and cannabis don't grow together like that. If there are any marijuana growers in the region, they're not going to like us because we'll be pollinating their plants with very low-THC hemp pollen which will ruin their cannabis crops."
Hough should know. He has admitted growing cannabis -- both the hemp and the recreational cultivars -- which, along with the cannabis offenses, make him suspect in the eyes of the Registrar of Hemp. Ironically, people like Hough, who because of their interest in cannabis have propelled the legalization of industrial hemp and know the most about cultivating industrial hemp, are being shut out.
Hough said it was absurd to let minor pot convictions block a legitimate, potentially profitable business. "We're putting together one of the most important agricultural projects in this state's history and we've been crippled," he said. "We can take it elsewhere, but it will cost this state millions of dollars in export earnings, revenue and jobs."
The Registrar of Hemp reported that he has granted only two licenses -- both to the Department of Agriculture for research purposes. When the hemp bill passed in March, Western Australian Green Party legislator Christine Sharpe told DRCNet passing the bill was only the beginning; that without government support, the industry would never get off the ground. At this point, it appears that the government of Western Australia is more interesting in obstructing than supporting the potential agricultural goldmine.