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Legal action against Customs worries hemp industry

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PostPosted: Thu Feb 26, 2004 5:21 pm    Post subject: Legal action against Customs worries hemp industry Reply with quote

New Zealand Press Association (NZPA)

Advocates for an industrial hemp industry in New Zealand say they are concerned that legal action by a store co-owned by Green MP Nandor Tanczos will hamper their efforts.

The Hemp Store Aotearoa in Auckland yesterday filed papers in Manukau District Court seeking to have the Customs Service release a $20,000 consignment containing hemp tea and a smoking mixture.

It said the THC — the active ingredient in marijuana — in the products was below the usual 0.3 per cent for hemp and Customs had cleared such items before.

However, New Zealand Hemp Industries Association chairman Mac McIntosh said today that he believed the store’s move was “misguided”.

“They knew perfectly well that leaf matter was still considered to be illegal, irrespective of its THC content,” he said.

The association wants an industrial hemp industry established in New Zealand for the manufacture of products such as insulation fibre and health foods.

Hemp cultivation used to be banned in New Zealand because of the plant’s relationship with cannabis.

In September 2001, trials began for a two-year period under strict licensing criteria.

The NZHIA describes itself as not a forum for debating the legalising of cannabis, and Mr McIntosh said he was concerned that Mr Tanczos might be seen as speaking for the hemp industry.

The Hemp Store’s legal action was “just the sort of thing we don’t need as an industry”, he added.

“It’s lovely sensational stuff, but it doesn’t confront the issues related to the real potential offered to New Zealand from an industrial hemp industry.

“We don’t want the public to have doubts or lack of understanding about what we’re trying to do.”

Mr McIntosh said the association hadn’t managed to get three universities involved — Lincoln, Waikato and Massey — “to grow drugs”.

Earlier, Mr Tanczos said he did not blame Customs for its action, but said the service had been “inconsistent” in its approach to hemp products, and a law change was required.

He has proposed an amendment to the Misuse of Drugs Act which would establish a THC content threshold to distinguish between marijuana and hemp.

Customs spokeswoman Lisa-Marie Richan said “an amount of cannabis” had been seized but the service could not comment further as the matter was now before the courts.

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