New Zealand hemp industry taking off with new uses, more acres

A hemp education hub opening Saturday in New Zealand comes as the nation prepares for a big uptick in hemp growing because of new rules expanding how the plant can be used.

According to The New Zealand Herald, the hemp innovation hub will offer consulting and education for interested hemp farmers.

The owner of the innovation hub, Chris Woodney, is a hemp consultant who works with a dozen New Zealand farmers planning to grow hemp this year.

Edible hempseeds, long legal in Europe and the United States, were legalized for human consumption in New Zealand last November.

New Zealand previously had a handful of farmers growing hemp for fiber or animal feed, but this year’s hemp acreage is expected to expand dramatically because of the change.

New Zealand has no official estimate how many acres of hemp are expected this year.

However, some activists have predicted there will be more than 2,000 acres in hemp production for food-grade seed.

The hemp research center is in a hostel in Rotorua, a town of about 60,000 on New Zealand’s North Island.

Woodney told the Herald the hemp innovation hub will focus on nutritional uses for hempseeds.

“My belief is cannabis should never have really been smoked,” Woodney said.

New Zealand defines hemp as cannabis sativa with a THC content below 0.35%, a slightly higher THC threshold than used in the United States and Canada.

Prospective New Zealand hemp farmers must pay license fees of about 511 New Zealand dollars ($371). The license fee includes a supply of government-approved hempseeds.