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Australia: WA HEMP HOPES GO UP IN SMOKE

By Alfa, Oct 5, 2004 | |
  1. Alfa
    WA HEMP HOPES GO UP IN SMOKE

    FOR eight years, businessman Kim Hough lobbied WA governments for approval
    of an estimated $1 billion-a-year industry that would boost local farming.

    The only problem was, it was illegal.

    Then, on May 19, the Industrial Hemp Act of WA came into effect.

    It allowed the cultivation and processing of industrial hemp with less than
    0.35 per cent tetrahydrocannabinol, the active ingredient of cannabis or
    marijuana.

    It should have been a sweet victory for Mr Hough, who has devoted much of
    his life to researching and promoting one of nature's most versatile if
    misunderstood plants.

    But now his company, Hemp Resources, is the first in WA to be rejected for a
    licence by the Department of Agriculture.

    According to Registrar of Hemp Mark Holland, Hemp Resources' application was
    rejected on the grounds that two of its directors and an associate had
    criminal convictions.

    Most were minor cannabis-related offences.

    The Industrial Hemp Act says applicants with serious drug offences cannot be
    granted a licence.

    But neither can those who are "not of good character and repute" - the basis
    for the written rejection.

    It was a bitter blow to the businessman, who says he has international
    investors and hundreds of local farmers queuing up to cash in on the crop.

    Hemp is the strongest natural fibre in the world and has thousands of uses,
    from textiles and cosmetics, to food products, fuel oil and construction.

    Hemp Resources' factory in Malaga has been producing such samples for the
    past year.

    The Catch-22 is that those who arguably know most about cultivating hemp in
    WA are more likely to have done it illegally in the past.

    Mr Hough admits to having grown small amounts for personal use and research
    purposes.

    But he also argues that such minor offences should not stand in the way of a
    legitimate business venture.

    "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."

    Mr Holland said Mr Hough could appeal the decision.

    So far, only two licences have been granted - both to Department of
    Agriculture staff for research purposes.

    Mr Holland said there had been interest from other private companies but
    only Hemp Resources had applied for a licence.

    In his ruling, Mr Holland stated: "The opportunities for misuse of that
    licence (by Hemp Resources) are obvious. Its grant would provide a cover for
    a person seeking to grow and sell cannabis, other than industrial hemp."

    Mr Hough said: "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."

    Mr Hough has enlisted Chinese help to establish a paper mill in the
    South-West and buy a textiles factory in China.

    The head of the Chinese side, Tian Xin, is founder of the Shenyang Institute
    of Natural Fibres, a member of the International Hemp Association.

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