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Concerns over industrial hemp thefts

Thursday 21 February 2019

The theft of industrial hemp plants from farmers’ crops has prompted Primary Industries and Regions SA (PIRSA) to remind people this new agricultural product does not have the same chemical properties as either marijuana or medicinal cannabis.


Manager Rural Chemicals Operations with PIRSA’s Biosecurity SA division, Michael McManus, said with the first commercial harvest of industrial hemp crops now underway in South Australia, PIRSA has become aware that some producers are facing unwanted attention on their crops.

“It is just not worth the risk to try and steal them,” he said.

“Industrial hemp should not be confused with medicinal cannabis or marijuana.

“This crop is essentially just like any other agricultural crop such as wheat or barley.

“Depending on the final purpose of the industrial hemp crop, spraying for insects and weeds can occur. So anyone thinking of stealing industrial hemp plants to either consume or smoke will experience absolutely no ‘high’. They should also be aware that if crops have been sprayed any consumption could in fact lead to a risk of becoming seriously unwell due to potential pesticide exposure.”

Under the Industrial Hemp Act 2017 there is very strict criteria on the definition of industrial hemp, with the plant only able to contain very low or negligible tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) content – less than one percent – in the leaves, flowers and stems. As a result, consumption of industrial hemp plants or seeds would provide absolutely no psychotropic (mind-altering) effects.

The main products derived from industrial hemp include seeds which are used in health food and cosmetic products, and fibre which is used to manufacture consumer and industrial textiles, building materials and paper.

Mr McManus also warned anyone caught trespassing at crop sites may be charged.

“Police are aware that industrial hemp thefts are occurring and are monitoring the situation,” he said.

Currently there are 11 producers licensed to grow industrial hemp in the state with two processing licences issued. Mr McManus said with industrial hemp also grown interstate and this new agricultural sector set to further develop in South Australia, the crop will become more visible.

“Based on current predictions, it is anticipated that within five years a small and expanding industrial hemp industry will be established in this state with a farm gate value of $3 million a year,” he said.

Anyone who notices any suspicious behaviour around industrial hemp sites should contact SA Police on 131 444 or Crime Stoppers on 1800 333 000.

For further information on the industrial hemp licensing scheme visit www.pir.sa.gov.au/industrialhemp

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