Proposed changes to the Misuse of Drugs (Industrial Hemp) Regulations 2006 and regulations under the Food Act 2014.

Closing Date:

Contact: Food policy team

Email: Food.Policy@mpi.govt.nz

Have your say

The Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) is seeking feedback on proposed changes to the Misuse of Drugs (Industrial Hemp) Regulations 2006 and regulations under the Food Act 2014.  The purpose of this consultation is to:

  • inform you of the required amendments to enable New Zealand to adopt a joint Australia New Zealand food standard (the Standard) under the Food Act 2014 (agreed between New Zealand and Australia in April 2017) to permit the sale of low-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) hemp seed food products
  • seek your feedback on the proposed amendments to the Misuse of Drugs (Industrial Hemp) Regulations 2006 to make them fit for purpose.

What is proposed?

The proposed changes provide for:

  • consistency between the Food Standards Code to allow low-THC hemp seed as food and the Industrial Hemp Regulations
  • regulations under the Food Act 2014 to declare low-THC hemp seed to be a food
  • greater flexibility around licensing to possess, cultivate, and trade in low-THC hemp.

The consultation runs from 10 May 2018 to 20 June 2018. 

Find out more

Discussion document

Download the discussion document on the proposed changes [PDF, 265 KB]

Making your submission

Email your feedback on the discussion document by 5pm on 20 June 2018 to food.policy@mpi.govt.nz

Make sure you include in your submission:

  • the title of the consultation document in the subject line of your email
  • your name and title (if applicable)
  • your organisation's name (if applicable)
  • your address

While we prefer email, you can send your submission by post to:

Hemp Regulations, Food Policy Team
Ministry for Primary Industries
PO Box 2526
Wellington 6140
New Zealand.

Submissions are public information

Any submission you make becomes public information. Anyone can ask for copies of all submissions under the Official Information Act 1982 (OIA). The OIA says we must make the information available unless we have a good reason for withholding it. You can find those grounds in sections 6 and 9 of the OIA. Tell us if you think there are grounds to withhold specific information in your submission. Reasons might include, it's commercially sensitive or it's personal information. However, any decision MPI makes to withhold information can be reviewed by the Ombudsman, who may require the information be released.

Questions and answers

What is hemp?

  • Hemp is a Cannabis sativa plant species, but with a low THC content (compared to marijuana).
  • Hemp is used for several purposes, for example as a textile, building material and paper. Hemp seeds can also be eaten, or they can be processed to make foods such as hemp seed oil, or hemp milk.
  • Hemp seeds contain close to zero THC, the substance which produces a psychoactive effect. They can, however, have trace levels of THC from the leaves of the plant.

Is there a link between hemp seed as food and medicinal cannabis?

  • No. The levels of active cannabinoids in low-THC hemp food products are well below any level that has proven to have any form of therapeutic effect.
  • Products from cannabis that have a therapeutic effect must follow a different regulatory pathway to hemp seeds as food.
  • The amended Standard 1.4.4 sets in place restrictions on the labelling, marketing, and advertising of these products.
  • The label for the food must not include the words 'cannabis', 'marijuana' or words of similar meaning.
  • The labels must not include an image or representation of any part of the cannabis plant, including the leaf.

Are hemp seed foods safe to eat?

  • Hemp seeds (and the food products made from seeds) are safe to eat.
  • Hemp seeds have a favourable nutritional profile, particularly with respect to omega-3 fatty acids.
  • It is not possible to get a psychoactive effect.

Will consuming low-THC hemp seed food products cause someone to fail a roadside or workplace drug test?

  • Swinburne University of Technology research concluded that it is highly unlikely that consumption of food containing trace levels of THC (that comply with the amended Standard 1.4.4) would result in any THC-positive oral fluid, urine or blood-based drug test.

How is it currently regulated?

  • Hemp as fibre is permitted under the Misuse of Drugs (Industrial Hemp) Regulations 2006. This is subject to a licensing regime administered by the Ministry of Health.
  • The only current permission for use as food is for hemp seed oil. This has a zero limit for THC.

How will it be enforced?

  • Hemp growers and anyone handling whole seeds will still require a licence.
  • The Police and Ministry of Health enforce the licensing regime. The licence is only available to eligible applicants. Once issued, it is very specific and details the exact activities that can be undertaken at the specific location, involving a specified area of land, growing only those cultivars listed on the licence.
  • Information about eligibility for a licence is available from the Ministry of Health.
  • MPI will ensure hemp food products are monitored through the normal process of ensuring food is safe and suitable to eat. These processes involve registering a business under the Food Act 2014, and adhering to all other MPI requirements that are applicable to the product and situation.

What will happen at the border when hemp seed food products are imported into New Zealand?

  • Whole hemp seeds require an import licence from the Ministry of Health, which will remain the same.  
  • Operators possessing hulled hemp seeds and hemp food products will not require a licence. Food importers will still need to register with MPI.
  • Operators possessing whole hemp seeds (with the hull on), for example to make hemp seed oil, will continue to require a licence.

What are the impacts on the environment?

  • According to scientific evidence hemp has a deep rooting system and has a favourable influence on the soil structure.
  • Hemp can be grown without the use of herbicides, fungicides, and other pesticides. 
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