A debate on Victoria’s industrial hemp bill introduced by the Legalise Cannabis Party was adjourned last week to enable the Labor government to formulate its response to the bill and the state’s hemp industry inquiry.

Legalise Cannabis Party MP Rachel Payne said the bill reduces impediments to growing hemp, needed by Victorian manufacturers to make building materials.

Legalise Cannabis Victoria MP Rachel Payne (photo: Kate Meakin)

“Victorian manufacturers are producing building materials, like insulation, bricks and hemp rebar, an alternative to steel,” she said.

“Hemp building materials are fire resistant, mould resistant and vermin proof, and capture carbon. The problem is not enough hemp is being grown in Victoria – only 169 hectares.

“We have a housing crisis in Australia, and we know Victorian builders are hindered by the rising cost of imported building materials and supply-chain interruptions. The bill would have made it easier for Victorian farmers to grow hemp and supply building product manufacturers. This ultimately supports the housing market.

“China is planting 1.3 million hectares of hemp by 2030. Europe enlarged its crop by 60 per cent over the past six years to 33,020 hectares, but Victoria is just falling further behind.”

Despite support from the Victorian Farmers Federation, Labor has questioned whether a stand-alone industrial hemp bill is necessary.

However, Payne countered: “Victoria and Queensland are the only states in Australia without one. It is imperative that Victoria has a stand-alone bill, look at Tasmania, which passed an industrial hemp bill in 2015, and you’ll see the benefits.”

Tasmania has 1,600 hectares of hemp planted, with a farm gate value of A$4.5 million and no licence or inspection fees. In Victoria, applications cost almost $500, and, for every 15 minutes of inspection, producers are charged $55.70. Tasmania has five-year licence terms compared to Victoria’s three years.

Legalise Cannabis Victoria MP David Ettershank said the proposed bill would remove the costs and stigma that deter farmers from growing hemp.

“Give farmers a break, they are being squeezed by supermarkets and navigating climate change,” he said. 

“We want them to grow hemp crops, but there are hurdles in their path, like arduous controls. We reserve the right to bring debate on this bill back to parliament and are eager to see Labor’s response.”

Prior to launching Cannabiz, Martin was co-founder and CEO of Asia-Pac’s leading B2B media and marketing information brand Mumbrella, overseeing its sale to Diversified Communications in 2017. A journalist...

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