WHETHER you consider yourself for or against the commercial or medical use of hemp or cannabis in Australia, there’s no disputing a mounting body of scientific research supporting it’s use.
And now Hartley resident Michelle Crain is on a mission to introduce the benefits of the much maligned hemp plant to the broader Australian community.
To achieve this end Mrs Crain has brought to fruition Australia’s first ever Hemp, Health and Innovation Expo that was recently held at Sydney’s Rose Hill Gardens.
The expo was officially opened by NSW Premier Mike Baird and attracted thousands of people over the course of it’s two days.
Mrs Crain’s pioneering goal is to establish hemp as a major industry in Australia and believes the federal government should be doing more to introduce the plant to local markets.
“There is a lot of stigma attached to hemp which arose with the industrial era because of it’s biological relation to marihuana,” Mrs Crain said.
“Hemp does come from the same plant family as marihuana however the psychoactive compound that is found in ‘pot’ is virtually non-existent in hemp.”
Michelle and her family have been running a successful fertilising business in Hartley for years and it was through their overseas business travels that Michelle witnessed the booming hemp industry abroad.
“We have lived in the area and have been manufacturing fertilisers on our property (in Hartley) for over 20 years,” she said.
“Our fertilisers are sold in Australia, New Zealand, Canada, the United States and the United Kingdom.
“Having travelled extensively throughout these areas, and being in business you are always looking out for opportunities, emerging industries and innovative ideas.
“Our products are used in the production of hemp in some of these countries, one of them being Canada where they now have an industry verging on $1 billion a year.”
Hemp is big business overseas with the United States among the fastest growing hemp markets globally and is largely fed by China.
China is among the world’s largest exporters of hemp having supplied the United States with $11.5 million worth of legal hemp in 2011.
Mrs Crain said the potential utility of the plant across multiple industries could yield huge benefits here in Australia.
“Hemp can be in every area of our lives from building, clothing, packaging, paper, food and health products,” Mrs Crain said.
“In Australia there are farmers growing hemp under licence but the market here could be just as large as the Canadian (market), but at present the laws here even restrict the human consumption of hemp based foods, which is madness as they are a huge source of essential minerals and there are many other documented health benefits.”
Among the guests attending Mrs Crain’s expo was Greens agricultural spokesperson Jeremy Buckingham who praised the event for helping to reduce the stigma associated with cannabis.
“Even conservative governments are recognising that medical cannabis can help alleviate symptoms, such as epilepsy in young children, as well as alleviate chronic pain,” he said.
“Under current laws, only hemp fibre can be sold, not the seed, as Australia and New Zealand are the only two countries in the world where it is illegal to consume hemp seed as a food product.”
“If the law is changed, major cereal, health food and confectionery brands could legally purchase hemp seed to bolster nutritional value of their products.
“This would be a massive boost for Australian farmers.
“Hemp is a salt tolerant crop which requires minimal water and is ideally suited to Australian growing conditions.”
“It is also a good option for farmers to grow in their crop rotation to break disease and pest cycles.”
According to the Sydney based Medical Cannabis Clinic Australia medical cannabis has a wide range of health applications and has been used to treat disorders and diseases including Alzheimers disease, arthritis, cancer, osteoporosis and Parkinson’s disease among many others.
There are signs that both federal and state governments are beginning to ease restrictions on the use of hemp and medicinal cannabis in Australia.
On February 24 this year the Australian Federal Government passed an historic Bill that allows for the production, purchase and use of medicinal cannabis in Australia.
Under this scheme, a patient with a valid prescription can possess and use a medicinal cannabis product manufactured from cannabis plants legally cultivated in Australia, where the supply is appropriately authorised under the Therapeutic Goods Act 1989 and relevant state and territory legislation.
The NSW Government has also developed their Terminal Illness Cannabis Scheme and has committed to clinical trials to further explore the use of cannabis and or cannabis products in providing relief for patients suffering from a range of illnesses.