Industrial hemp in Western Australia

Page last updated: Friday, 26 June 2020 - 11:06am

Industrial hemp (Cannabis sativa) has been grown in WA for many years and is gaining interest due to recent changes in food standards allowing human consumption of hemp seed in Australia.

Industrial hemp production is regulated in Western Australia under the Industrial Hemp Act 2004. The Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development acts as the registrar for the act.

What is industrial hemp?

The Industrial Hemp Act 2004 states that 'industrial hemp' means cannabis, the leaves and flowering heads of which do not contain more than 1.0% of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). These low levels of THC mean that industrial hemp plants do not have the psychoactive effects associated with prohibited cannabis varieties (marijuana).

Industrial hemp is a versatile crop which can be cultivated for both fibre and seed production. Fibre and hurd can be extracted from the stem, and seeds can be hulled and eaten, or pressed for omega rich oil and protein rich powder.

Opportunities for hemp products are vast including textiles, rope, animal bedding, building materials, oil and food. The challenge for WA businesses is identifying hemp products we can produce profitably and competitively. 

Licences to cultivate, harvest and process industrial hemp

The Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development acts as the Registrar for the Industrial Hemp Act 2004 in Western Australia. This legislation enables licensees to cultivate, harvest and process industrial hemp on a commercial scale.

An Industrial hemp licence is necessary to cultivate, harvest and/or process industrial hemp. See the webpage Licensing industrial hemp activities in Western Australia for application forms and more information.

Enquiries regarding medicinal cannabis or extracts from hemp, should be directed to the Office of Drug Control.

Use of industrial hemp as animal feed in Western Australia

Western Australia’s reputation for producing high-quality food products is based on our rigorous biosecurity systems that are designed to protect human health and our markets. A key part of our biosecurity system is the legislation designed to prevent residues in livestock and aquaculture products that could affect human health or damage market confidence.

Requirements for animal feed and preventing chemical residues in food-producing animals are contained in WA’s Biosecurity and Agriculture Management Act 2007 and Biosecurity and Agriculture Management (Agriculture Standards) Regulations 2013.

Feeding hemp or hemp products to animals is not prohibited under these regulations. However all producers are responsible for ensuring that any animals or animal products they produce do not contain substances that would contaminate food (including any livestock or aquaculture products).

If hemp or hemp products containing tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) or related compounds are fed to animals, the animals may accumulate THC in their fat and detectable levels could transfer to milk or possibly other animal products. There are many factors that may influence the likelihood of this occurring and the area is not currently well understood.

Under WA’s Biosecurity and Agriculture Management (Agriculture Standards) Regulations 2013, a contaminant is not allowed to be present in supplied animal products unless Food Standards Australia and New Zealand (FSANZ) has set a safe allowed level (a ‘maximum level’) for the contaminant and the contaminant does not exceed that level. FSANZ have not set a maximum level for THC in animal products.

It is an offence to supply a contaminated animal or animal product in WA and the Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development (DPIRD) would be obliged to investigate and undertake appropriate compliance actions if a contaminated animal product was suspected or detected.

If animals or animal products containing detectable levels of THC were supplied to markets sensitive to these compounds, this could also have a negative impact on Western Australia’s food safety reputation and our trade.

DPIRD is not currently aware of suitable published research on how to feed hemp plants or hemp products that contain THC to food-producing animals in a way that avoids THC transferring into animal products.

Some feeding practices that may be more likely to result in THC transferring into animal products include:

  • Feeding industrial hemp leaves or flowers, or plants with leaves or flowers attached.
  • Feeding hemp seed or seed products that contain more than 10mg/kg total THC or where the hemp product comprises more than 20% of the total animals’ diet.

All producers in WA are responsible for ensuring that any food-producing animals or animal products they supply do not contain unsafe chemical residues or contaminants. Producers should always assess the risk of residues whenever they intend to feed novel or by‑product feed materials to their animals.

It is also important to avoid exposing livestock to plant chemicals used to treat weeds or pests and always follow any grazing withholding periods (GHP) or other label withholding periods.

For more information about safe feed for livestock in WA, contact DPIRD veterinary officer Martin Matisons, or see the stockfeed regulation and standards webpage.

Contacts and useful links

DPIRD contacts

Industry development and general enquiries:

Rachelle Johnstone, Research Scientist

Agronomy:

Shahajahan Miyan, Research Scientist

Industrial hemp licensing

Industry bodies

iHempWA (Industrial Hemp Western Australia Assocition Inc.) is the peak state industry body for industrial hemp in Western Australia. For more information see the iHempWA website or email 

WA Industrial Hemp Growers' Co-op Ltd. (HempGro) is a grower cooperative established in 2018. For more information see the HempGro website 

Australian Industrial Hemp Alliance (AIHA) is the National industrial hemp association. For more information see the AIHA website

Further reading

Manjimup hemp processing prefeasibility study

The Manjimup hemp processing prefeasibility report was commissioned by the Manjimup Agriculture Expansion Project, jointly steered by Shire of Manjimup, DPIRD, South West Development Commission and the Southern Forests Food Council. The work was completed by Strategy Matrix in 2017-18.

The report considers production of hemp fibre and seed, supply chain and markets for hemp products. The reports of Stage 1 and 2 of the prefeasibility, and a comprehensive literature review is now available to download by filling out the webform on the page Manjimup hemp processing prefeasibility report.

New Opportunities in new & emerging agricultural industries in Australia

Coriolis Australia Pty Ltd. prepared this report for AgriFutures Australia in 2017. It contains a comprehensive scan of opportunities for Australian new and emerging agricultural industries, detailing 20-30 priority opportunities (including hemp) for new rural industry development. The report is available on the AgriFutures Australia website.

 

Contact information

Rachelle Johnstone
+61 (0)8 9780 6158