To describe the hemp laws, let us look at three different countries:
In New Zealand, we can legally grow hemp and process oil from the seed. The seed cake which is left from the cold pressing process although is one of the best foods we could possible use on the planet is not allowed to be sold as human food. However we can sell it as animal food or for body care products.
The stalks can be processed in New Zealand and used in any way. However the challenge with this is the limited processing facilities we have in New Zealand. Processing machines have been sold off and removed from the system to slow the growth of the hemp industry allowing petrochemical a clear advantage.
The hemp food law through ANZFSA is up for consideration and hopefully will change so as to allow the hemp seed to be used fully as human food. Submissions are being called for and close Feb 2012.
Australia can grow hemp but is not permitted to use the seed for food at all, they are not even allowed to sell hemp oil as a food as we can in New Zealand. However Hemp seed may be used in body care products.
The USA are not permitted to grow hemp at all. Although in years prior to prohibition hemp growing was a part of the American culture. Past US Presidents even grew their own crops and farmers could grow and trade hemp as tender for taxes.
Americans can however consume hemp foods. Any hemp food in any form except viable seed.
Hemp has a very colourful history and each country of the world has their own law in relation to growing and processing it. Many wars have been fought over the control of hemp for centuries just as wars continue over oil today.
The official New Zealand Law: Hemp seed oil
The sale of hemp seed oil as food is legal in New Zealand. Hemp seed oil is the only hemp-derived product legally sold as a food or added to a food in New Zealand. Read about the regulations that apply including the dietary supplement regulations.
Food (Safety) Regulations 2002
The New Zealand Food Safety Authority (MAF Food Safety) is responsible for the administration of the Food (Safety) Regulations 2002, which came into effect on 20th December 2002. These regulations incorporate a specific permission for the legal sale of hemp seed oil as food in New Zealand.
Changing regulations and the implications for hemp seed oil
Prior to the Food (Safety) Regulations 2002, hemp seed oil could be legally sold in New Zealand under the general provisions in the New Zealand Food Regulations 1984. In 1995 the New Zealand Government entered into a treaty agreement with the Government of Australia to establish a system for developing a joint food standards code. Food Standards Australia New Zealand (FSANZ) developed the Australia New Zealand Food Standards Code (the Food Standards Code) over several years. After a two-year transition period, the Food Standards Code came into full effect on 20 December 2002, with a further transitional period of 2 years to sell food produced and packaged prior to this date.
Unlike the Food Regulations, the Food Standards Code includes a prohibition on the sale of parts of the cannabis plant under Standard 1.4.4 – Prohibited Botanicals. As a result, New Zealand would have had no legislation enabling the continuation of the sale of hemp seed oil after December 2002 if no other action was taken. In response to this situation, we developed provisions in the Food (Safety) Regulations 2002 as a transitional arrangement until such time as either a New Zealand or a joint standard might be incorporated into the Food Standards Code. The scope of the transitional provision relating to hemp is limited to hemp seed oil and it maintains the general provisions for hemp seed oil that existed under the New Zealand Food Regulations 1984.
Conditions for the production and sale of hemp seed oil
The Food (Safety) Regulations 2002 sets-out the conditions for the production and sale of hemp seed oil for human consumption in New Zealand. Hemp seed oil produced or imported under the following conditions can be legally sold in New Zealand as a food or added to food products sold within New Zealand. These conditions are:
“26 (2) (a) in the case of hemp seed oil that is produced in New Zealand, the hemp seed oil is derived from cannabis seed from plants that are grown in New Zealand under and in accordance with any conditions attached to a licence to cultivate industrial hemp issued by the Director General of the Ministry of Health; and 26 (3) (b) in the case of hemp seed oil that is imported into New Zealand, the hemp seed oil must be tested by an analyst working in a laboratory approved under the Misuse of Drugs Act 1975 and has been authorised for sale and use.”
There are no current plans to review the scope of these Regulations to permit a wider range of hemp products. The matter would need to be considered within the joint Food Standards Setting process.
Attitudes about hemp food products in the food supply
There are differing attitudes about the distinction made between hemp and the Cannabis Sativa plant. Hemp may contain no THC or THC below a level of 0.35% (as set out under the Ministry of Health’s Licence conditions and analysed by Environmental Science and Research).
For sections of the community that support the differentiation between hemp and the Cannabis Sativa plant, there appear to be changing attitudes towards hemp in the food supply. Social attitudes are slow to change however and there appears to be many other sections of the community that do not support this position, and who continue to associate hemp with the illegal drug, Cannabis Sativa.
Current food opportunities for hemp
There are a range of opportunities for the sale of hemp seed oil and other hemp products in New Zealand.
domestic sale of New Zealand produced hemp seed oil based products;
export sale of hemp seed oil (to countries where hemp seed oil is permitted to be sold);
domestic sale of hemp in animal fodder. Schedule 4 of the Agricultural Compounds and Veterinary Medicines Act does not prohibit the use of hemp in animal feed (for standing crops opened to animal grazing and oral nutritional compounds such as traded feed). We consider hemp grown in accordance with the Ministry of Health’s hemp trial licenses THC is unlikely to breach Schedule 4.
Hemp seed oil is the only legal hemp product in New Zealand (human consumption).
Under the Food (Safety) Regulations, it is not legal to sell any hemp-derived product other than hemp seed oil as a food or added to a food. Hemp related products that cannot be sold for food or added to food products (human consuption) in New Zealand include:
whole hemp seed
hemp seed nut
hemp seed protein.
Review of the regulatory framework for hemp licensing trials
Medsafe, the Ministry of Health’s medicine regulatory agency, reviewed the regulatory framework for hemp licensing trials. On the 1st of August 2006, a new regulatory regime for the cultivation, processing and distribution of industrial hemp as an agricultural crop was put in place. People who wish to grow, trade in, or process hemp need to be licensed.
Dietary Supplement Regulations 1985
Along with a wide range of edible substances, hemp seed oil products can be sold as a dietary supplement under the Dietary Supplement Regulations 1985 (the Regulations). The Regulations were intended to cover a range of vitamins and mineral products and other nutrients usually contained in tablet, capsule or powder form. However since the regulations were put in place, dietary supplements have evolved to include a wide range of products that are food like. These food type dietary supplements go beyond the original intention of the Regulations. As a result there are examples of products sold as dietary supplements under the Regulations but marketed to the consumer as food. We are currently preparing amendments to the Regulations to address this unclear distinction between foods sold under the Regulations and foods sold under the Food Standards Code.