Hemp in History

Wars have been fought for hemp, the fibre being needed for uniforms, rope/cordage and for the fleets of sailing ships, both merchant and naval vessels.

Canvas sails (canvas is the dutch pronunciation of the Greek word “Kannabis”  – K means cane and B means two, two reeds or two sexes) rigging, anchor ropes, cargo and fishing nets, flags, shrouds and oakum (caulking as a waterproof sealant) an average ship in the 16-19 century used 50-100 tonnes of hemp rigging plus the sails etc. Much of which had to be replaced every year or two, due to salt root.

The fibre was also used to produce the paper, maps, logs and bibles used on board.

The Napoleonic/Russian war 1812 was fought over hemp (Napoleon wanted to stop Rusia from providing hemp fibre to the British navy), and after outlawing hemp as marijuana in 1937 in the USA, they had to back track during world war two when fibre was required for the war effort.

With the hysteria created by “refer madness” in the first half of the 20th century, the US Government banned cannabis with the US Marijuana Tax Act, 1937.

The United Nations have also got controls in place for cannabis.  Under the Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs, 1961

In New Zealand hemp was banned by the Misuse of Drugs Act 1975.

In 1945 the US Government produced the “Hemp For Victory” News Reel (Hemp for Victory) asking all patriotic Americans to grow hemp, at the same time Germany produced a primer (a newspaper) promoting the same information GermanPrimer-PDF-72dpi

Some countries have not interupted their industries but world wide the tendancey was to ban hemp.  In New Zealand there was a moratorium on even talking about cannabis, right up to the end of the 1990’s

In 1998 the NZHIA and other interested people and business were working hard on bring down this prohibition on even talking about hemp, once this was overcome the Government allowed trials to be conducted.

The trials went from 2000 to  2005 and resulted in the Misuse of Drugs Act – Industrial Hemp Regulations, 2006.  The regulations have allowed industrial hemp to be grown under licencee and be used to derive hemp products.

By law in New Zealand, only industrial can be used to make hemp products.

The decortication step, splitting the stems in to fibre 20% and hurd 80% was mechanized in the early 20th Century.  This was a critical development, which would have done what the “cotton gin” did for the cotton industry.  The mechanised approach would make the extraction of the fibre and hurd economic.

Unfortunately by 1937 when this machine was highlighted in the “Popular Mechanics article – The New Billion Dollar Crop”, the Marijuana tax act was in place effectively stopping the hemp industry in America.  In the same year DuPont patented Nylon (synthetic fibre) and the high sulfur processing technique to pulp wood products for paper, so these industries developed in the space left behind when hemp fibre and hurd/shiv were no longer available.

Interestingly the prohibition on cannabis meant that not a lot of work was done on developing the cultivation, processing and production of hemp.  We need to bring these activities into the 21st Century and New Zealand’s “kiwi ingenuity” approach means we can develop the IP associated with better processing and production techniques.

New Zealand can profit from growing and exporting hemp products and there is also licencing opportunities and export sale of machines available if we can develop efficient grow, harvest, processing and production techniques.


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Hemp Food – issue with FSANZ Food Ministers

Hemp foods for human consumption has been an issue since 1998, when application “A360 – Hemp as a Novel Food” was first submitted to the Australia New Zealand Food Safety Ministers.

In 2000 New Zealand food policy was taken over by a joint approach with Australia, they get 8 votes as states and territories plus one for the federal government, so they get 9 votes and New Zealand gets one vote.

A360 was submitted by Phil Warner at Eco Fibre, after four years of stakeholder consultation it was first voted (or ignored) in December 2002 when it was unanimously rejected, it was reconsidered in 2005 but this also resulted in a no vote.

Another application “A1039 Low THC hemp seed foods” was received by Food Safety Australia and New Zealand in December 2009, another 4 years of stakeholder consultation followed and this application was finally rejected in Jan 2015.

The officials working at the food ministries in Australia and New Zealand have produced some excellent documents and have always recommended to the Food Ministers that the food is safe and should be allowed for human consumption.

However the Food minsters continue to vote no, recently our Food Minister Hon Jo Goodhew has become supportive of access to hemp Foods, and has instructed the ministry to overcome the four issues which are of concern

These four issues have been brought up in every official communique, since the first no vote in 2002

The main problems are the Victorian state police preoccupation with road side swab testing for driving while under the influences of cannabis.  These swab tests are banned in New Zealand as they are not reliable. Either way there is no way that minute traces of thc in hemp foods would trigger a positive reading.

The other main issue is “sending mixed messages to the youth on the Safety of cannabis” this relates to labeling as they don’t want to see the leaf being used to advise hemp foods.  

This energy drink has been sold in New Zealand for around 10 years, with a huge leaf on it, it contains no hemp and is simply trading on the image of the leaf, in this time Food Safety nor Medicines Control have stopped the sale of this drink which used to be found in nearly every corner dairy in the country.

Worldwide food manufactures have not used the leaf as they do want the stigma of the marijuana leaf to put off there customers.

Despite the ban on hemp seed as a human food, the magic of labeling has allowed hulled hemp seed, (the heart/meal in the seed)  to be sold in Australia and New Zealand as an animal food.  

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