Tasmanian Hemp Business Owners Call on Government To Improve Regulations

Two Tasmanian hemp business owners are founders and operators of the island state’s hemp processing operations. Andi Lucas of the hemp processing facility X-Hemp and Tim Crow of Hemp Harvests proudly embrace the benefits of hemp, but in a recent interview with ABC News, both of them expressed the need for regulations to change.

“I’m effectively being treated as though I’m dealing with some sort of narcotic when in actual fact it’s a crop like grain, or barley, or wheat,” said Lucas about the state of the industry. “I think we missed an opportunity, the rest of the world has the ability to utilize the whole … plant,” added Crow.

In November 2023, the Tasmania government tabled the Industrial Hemp Amendment Bill 2023 in parliament. New regulations associated with the bill would have changed both the 2015 Industrial Hemp Act and the Industrial Hemp Amendment Regulations 2016 to free up restrictions encountered by people like Lucas and Crow.

At the time, Jo Palmer, the Minister for Primary Industries and Water, explained that legislators are committed to improving the state’s hemp industry. “Proposed amendments will improve clarity, efficiency, and transparency for licensees,” Palmer said in a press statement. “It will also provide consistency with existing legislation in relation to police powers, the assessment of suitability of applicants, and definitions for fit and proper persons and responsible officers.”

X-Hemp was founded by Andi Lucas (who is also the Tasmanian Hemp Association’s president). According to her website, X-Hemp is the only cannabis fiber processing mill in Tasmania, and one of only a few throughout all Australian states. “X-Hemp grows its own crops and works with our state’s licensed hemp farmers, converting the grain stubble left from the hemp seed harvest—which was previously being burned off as waste—into saleable products,” the company website states. “X-Hemp sells hemp for building materials, mulch for landscaping, bast for specialty paper production, and other outputs for alternative uses such as animal bedding.”

Lucas told ABC about the benefits of hemp processing and hempcrete production. “Hempcrete as a building material is highly insulating, it’s non-combustible, so it actually won’t ignite,” Lucas said. “It’s fantastic for bushfire areas, that type of thing, it’s a very attractive option for people who are looking to build environmentally sustainable homes. Hemp basically sequesters carbon through the growth cycle of the plant and the building’s life cycle.”

X-Hemp is making hempcrete to be used in the interior construction of the University of Tasmania’s (UTAS) forestry building, which was announced in January 2023. “We’re incredibly excited to be asked to supply material to a huge project that UTAS are building in Hobart and the old forestry building,” Lucas explained. “It’ll be the largest hempcrete building in the southern hemisphere and all of that hemp is being locally grown and processed in Tassie, which is amazing.”

Crow founded Hemp Harvests, a hemp seed processing company which sells hemp seed hearts, hemp protein concentrate, and hemp seed oil. In the ABC interview, he explained that traveling in France and the Netherlands showed how hemp has truly become mainstream. “That’s where they produce fiber which is put into composites—BMW and Mercedes put them into car door panels.” He added that hemp insulation is more beneficial and takes less energy to create versus traditional methods of insulation, although it’s currently more expensive.

He also explored the North American and Canadian hemp markets, specifically how they have evolved and expanded hemp production. “Now there’s a lot of investment going into using the fibers, including building materials—there’s people making natural insulation and flooring,” Crow said.

When the Tasmanian Industrial Hemp Amendment Bill 2023 was shelved last November, the government stated that the industrial hemp industry could be worth $10 billion by 2050, and is an important contribution to help the state move toward sustainability.

Overall, Australians have shown overwhelming support for cannabis in a variety of ways. A recent YouGov poll showed that 50% of Australians are in favor of legalizing a bill that would allow residents to grow up to six cannabis plants for personal use. The poll also showed that 54% of Australians support decriminalization, with 33% saying they do not support decriminalization, and 12% didn’t know.

Last July, Australia became the first country in the world to allow doctors to prescribe psilocybin and MDMA therapy. It was a three-year process and decision by the Therapeutic Goods Administration that eventually led to moving psilocybin and MDMA from Schedule 9 substances to Schedule 8.

If recreational cannabis were to be legalized throughout Australia, a May 2023 report shows that the industry could earn $243.5 million per year within the first five years. “This is the first time anyone has shown their working, and set out exactly how their figures were arrived at,” said Legalise Cannabis WA party leader Brian Walker. “On the spending side we’ve got stuff like your police—for chasing a cannabis crime—the courts and the corrective services for managing that. Altogether, that’s about $100 million per year.”

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