Last week I went to the 2018 iHemp Summit in Wellington to throw down a korero, and launch Aro Hemp Aotearoa to the world.
Over the last 6 years I have watched the Hemp industry evolve, and this gathering of industry and innovating minds alike to share ideas shows massive growth and some serious momentum on the way for Aotearoa.
Over two days there were over 30 speakers on various specialist areas - Here are my top 5 takeaways (in detail):
1. Conscious Business
Following the industry momentum over the last few years, both in NZ and worldwide, the Hemp Industry in Aotearoa is going to boom, but it is just going to become another corporate/competition led machine if we don't work together to create a common vision and set of shared values for the industry what we want to create here in Aotearoa. Witnessing burgeoning groups like the NZHIA (www.nzhia.co.nz) and the Māori Hemp Collective coming together to share ideas and resources is a great start to this movement. If you are interested in being more involved in these groups - email me at firstname.lastname@example.org
One of the main things the Hemp industry is lacking is education. Education of the public, the end consumer, the product innovator, the farmer, and the government. On all levels, we need to create and provide education about how low THC hemp is different to high THC Cannabis; Education about how hemp is good for the human body, the soils and the atmosphere; Education on what hemp is capable of creating and replacing; Education on how to grow hemp to a high standard in Aotearoa, and in turn how hemp can help solve the problems we face as a country and humanity looking forward 5-10 years from now.
Although hemp is gaining more media attention, there is still a gaping hole in terms of educating the general public and the government on how hemp can be used. For the early adopters, there is no doubt that Hemp can help in a massive way to create a more regenerative future for NZ, but because of a lack of demand from our undereducated masses, our government is not currently empowering this industry to grow.
3. Hemp Foods & Legislation
As we see the exponential growth of plant based diets and lifestyles around the world, with something like 3 TBSP of dehulled hemp seeds per day (full of protein, essential fatty acids, magnesium, zinc and iron), Hemp can play a leading role in the reformation of the food system in Aotearoa. With hempseeds as a basis, we can create more naturally derived food products, supplements and health products that are both good for humans and good for planet. In the words of Cookie Time founder Michael Mayell, we should be encouraging existing food producers to make hemp versions of their products - but with current legislation pressures meaning the current rate for NZ grown seed is $27 per KG, financing this could be challenging without having to import cheaper seed from overseas producers like Canada.
In terms of our current hemp legislation, and despite already being safe and legal for humans to eat all over the world, the NZ government still classes hemp foods as illegal for human consumption, and this is not set to change until 2019. Until this time, it is illegal to sell hemp Seeds for anything other than animal food. The main reason for this is because low THC industrial hemp falls under the same legislation as High THC cannabis - which means it is governed under the Misuse of Drugs act (an old piece of legislation published in 1975). This means that even though hemp is an industrial crop (similar to corn), and it should be governed by the Ministry of Agriculture, it is currently governed by the Ministry of Health. This means that MODA (Misuse of Drugs Act) needs to be relooked at before there can be any changes in the NZ Industrial Hemp regulations. This means what is required is a reformation of our current drug laws, which historically could take quite some time to get through parliament - but has been set for early 2019.
4. Medicinal Cannabinoids
Industrial Hemp is classed as a variety of cannabis which has less than 0.35% THC - Which means it is not going to get you high.
THC (Tetrahydrocannabinol) is one of hundreds of cannabinoids in the cannabis varieties, and only THC is psychoactive. Other cannabinoids are powerful health supporting compounds that work on the natural cannabinoid system in the human body. Only about 10% of cannabis crops naturally exceed the .35% level of THC, varying from 10-30%, and these strains are what we call Medical/Recreational Cannabis, which are currently illegal in NZ. Because of a lack of education and out-dated legislation, industrial hemp is governed under the same laws as medical cannabis.
From the above standpoint I do not see medical/recreational cannabis being legalized on a nationwide scale for at least the next 2-4 years. However certain groups like Hikurangi Cannabis Company have managed to slip through loop holes and achieve licenses to enable this to happen, and there have been small cases where patients have been granted access to use medicinal cannabis, and others to use an expensive pharmaceutical product called Sativex. Although the Labour government supports and sees the value of medical cannabis, the Minister of Health mentioned at the Summit that he has never seen a medicinal cannabis growers application come across his desk... 🤔 This means that with more educated public requests that this could help to tip the scale towards more accessible legalization.
5. Harvesting & Processing
Through our experience with Aro Hemp Aotearoa, and from various expert opinions at the Hemp Summit, one of the most challenging aspects of growing hemp is harvesting and processing - which is an essential part of any hemp operation.
At this point in Aotearoa, there is not wide access to the expensive machinery that is required to harvest and process hemp (seed dehulling, seed oil pressing, fibre decortication, seed cleaning and seed/fibre storage). This means that the access to this machinery and capital investment to set them us are an obstacle for first time and small scale growers. These machines I have mentioned are not simple "plug and play" operations - both requiring heavy capital investment and also skilled workmanship to operate and fulfill processes.
For the industry to flourish here in Aotearoa we need NZ specific agronomy practices, regional processing facilities and harvesting equipment, new legislation and also large capital investment.
Through being involved in Indigenous Māori networks and the NZHIA I have witnessed a strong presence of many small scale growers who are working together to pool resources and help to pioneer this movement for the betterment of the people and of the planet. If not directly involved in the industry, we can all play our part from a grassroots level first by supporting NZ made hemp products in the marketplace, and second by educating the masses of the many uses of hemp and the problems that it can help to solve in the food, clothing, housing and medical industry.
Together we can create a regenerative industry here in NZ with strong values and systems which help to support the health of our local communities, the healing of our lands, rivers and waterways, and providing an economic leg up in our national and export market.
Care for the land.
Care for the people.
Aro Hemp Aotearoa
Special thanks to Richard Barge, Mack Mackintosh, Midlands Seed + all sponsors for making the NZ iHemp Summit 2018 happen - looking forward to where we are in 2019.
Hemp Farm NZ Ltd new hemisphere Ecofibre Plant Culture HempConnect University of Waikato Organic Mechanic Hemp For Victory
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