A small yet significant victory occurred on Tuesday as Government announced formal regulatory changes, which will mean that hemp seed products will be legal for sale and consumption as from 12 November 2018.
This change in legislation means that in addition to hemp seed oil (which has been legal since 2003) items such as de-hulled hemp seed, hemp seed protein powder, hemp seed beverages and hemp seed snack bars will now all be able to be legally sold for human consumption in New Zealand.
This change in hemp seed food legislation follows on from changes that Trans – Tasman Food Ministers agreed to be made to the Australia New Zealand Food Standards Code on 28 April 2017. Australia has been legally selling their hemp food items since November last year.
Announcing the legislation change, Food Safety Minister Damien O’Connor acknowledged that the NZ industrial hemp (iHemp) industry has been campaigning for this amendment to happen for decades. He also made reference to the potential for the iHemp industry to be significantly beneficial to New Zealand’s rural economies and communities in terms of generating revenue and jobs.
Despite this good news however, hemp flowers and hemp leaves, even those strains with effectively zero levels of the psycho active component THC, will remain illegal in New Zealand food: This continued restriction is frustrating for those who want the high value nutrition of the whole plant to be made available to New Zealanders for dietary and medical benefits.
Additionally, the possession and trade of whole hemp seeds will still require a license, and all new hemp seed food items will not be permitted to feature the word cannabis or to show the cannabis leaf on packaging.
In response to the announcement Richard Barge of NZHIA said: “Whilst we welcome any progress that helps the iHemp industry, if the hemp seed is indeed to be traded now as ‘any other edible seed’, the restrictions still in place will continue to be a source of postponing the full flourishing of the iHemp industry in New Zealand.
“We wait to see how the imminent order in council by the Ministry Of Primary Industries will affect the Industrial Hemp Regulations 2006.
“Is the New Zealand government serious about helping our rural economies?”
NZ Food Safety Guide to Hemp Seeds
Head of New Zealand Food Safety, Bryan Wilson, says: “Hemp seeds are safe to eat and nutritious. They don’t produce a psychoactive or therapeutic effect. Earlier this year, New Zealand Food Safety and the Ministry of Health jointly consulted on proposed changes to the Misuse of Drugs (Industrial Hemp) Regulations 2006 and the Food Regulations 2015 to allow the sale of hemp seed as food. Sixty-four submissions were received from industry groups, growers, businesses and consumers, with the majority of respondents strongly in favour of changes to allow hemp seed and hemp seed products to be sold as food. Submitters also requested more guidance surrounding the Misuse of Drugs (Industrial Hemp) Regulations 2006.
“To support the new hemp seed industry, New Zealand Food Safety have produced two new guides – A guide to hemp seeds as food and A guide to labelling food containing hemp seeds. These provide information on the what hemp seeds or hemp seed products are allowed as food, what rules need to be met and how to meet them, and what information needs to be included on the label.
“Although hemp seeds can now be sold as food, hemp production continues to be regulated to ensure that illegal, high-THC cannabis is not produced. Hemp flowers and leaves are not permitted. Growing, possession and trade of whole seeds requires a licence from the Ministry of Health.
“New Zealand Food Safety will ensure the THC levels in the hemp seed 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, following a risk management programme, and adhering to all other Ministry for Primary Industry requirements applicable to the product and situation,” says Wilson.