New Zealand reclassifies hemp seed as edible food

New Zealand hemp seed legal edible food
The New Zealand government has declared hemp seed 'safe to eat'.

Following new rule changes in New Zealand, hemp seed will now be sold as food, as opposed to being banned under government prohibition, for the first time in the country’s history.

From 12 November, the Misuse of Drugs (Industrial Hemp) Regulations 2006 and the Food Regulations 2015 in New Zealand will be amended to allow the sale of hemp seed as food although hemp flowers and leaves will remain restricted.

Food Standards Australia New Zealand (FSANZ) carried out a risk assessment last year and concluded that low-THC hemp seed foods are “safe for consumption” and can provide a “good alternative source of nutrients and polyunsaturated fatty acids, especially Omega-3 fatty acids.”

According to New Zealand’s Food Safety Minister Damien O’Connor, “this is great news for the local hemp industry, which has argued for decades that the production of hemp seed foods will stimulate regional economies,” and adds that the regulation change will create jobs and generate $10-20 million in export revenue within 3 to 5 years.

“Hulled, non-viable seeds and their products will be now be viewed as just another edible seed. Growing, possession and trade of whole seeds will still require a licence from the Ministry of Health,” said Mr O’Connor.

One business that could directly benefit from New Zealand’s rule change is Elixinol Global (ASX: EXL) with their hemp seed and oils products already being sold across Australia and New Zealand.

According to Elixinol’s founder and CEO Paul Benhaim, New Zealand has finally caught up with Australia and the rest of the world in legalising healthy and nutritious hemp products and would mean his company would have its products in the country by the end of this year.

“We have a distributor excited to sell our products in New Zealand and we’ll be able to take a number of other products to market there in the near future,” Mr Benhaim told Small Caps.

New Zealand emulates Australia

New Zealand has reiterated that hemp seeds are safe to eat, nutritious, and do not carry psychoactive effects which make them a long-awaited addition the country’s produce export market that is already stuffed with dairy, eggs, honey, as well as, meat, wood, fruits and nuts.

Those markets alone net the country more than half its total export revenue, or around US$20 billion (A$27.7 billion) per year.

The addition of hemp seed emulates Australia’s move to do just the same in November last year.

Last year, hemp derived from the same species as cannabis was legalised for Australian consumption. The rule change meant that food made with hemp products could be legally sold as food, with this week’s news of New Zealand following suit making no surprise.

The news was already expected given that on 28 April 2017, trans-Tasman Ministers approved a change to the Australia New Zealand Food Standards Code to allow the sale of hemp seed as a food for human consumption.

Before this could happen, some amendments had to be made to the Misuse of Drugs (Industrial Hemp) Regulations 2006 and the Food Regulations 2015.

With the changes now complete, Oceania’s two largest nations are now on par with regards to hemp seed legislation.

Softening legislation on hemp will also mean that both Australian and Kiwi producers will now be able to access a growing global industry worth in excess of $500 million per year – and growing, on the back of increasing use of industrial hemp, hemp seed and its plethora of derivatives.

“We will continue to ease pathways for our farmers and growers to produce the finest food and fibre for the world’s most discerning customers,” said Mr O’Connor.

George is an award-winning market analyst who has authored articles and editorial opinion pieces for multiple publications around the world. He has written about a wide variety of topics including financial markets, stocks, trading, politics and economics.