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March 28, 2023

Hemp foods and cosmetics tied up in knots by regulations

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L to R: Labor state health spokesperson, Hemp Foods Australia CEO Paul Benhaim and Richmond Labor MP Justine Elliot raise a cup of hemp tea to celebrate recent deregulation. Photo Jeff 'Doesn't Affect Me' Dawson
L to R: Labor state health spokesperson Walt Secord, Hemp Foods Australia CEO Paul Benhaim and Richmond Labor MP Justine Elliot raise a cup of hemp tea to celebrate recent deregulation. Photo Jeff ‘Doesn’t Affect Me’ Dawson

Chris Dobney

Hemp Foods Australia CEO Paul Benhaim is raising a glass of hemp tea to celebrate the recent win of common sense over absurd food labelling laws.

Even though hemp seed has myriad nutritional benefits (it contains 33 per cent protein and all the essential fatty acids) it has been banned for human consumption in Australia for decades because of ‘reefer madness’ era fears it might get consumers stoned.

The seed contains none of the psychoactive THC that marijuana smokers seek but plenty of other health-giving cannabinoids (of which there are some 113).

Australia and New Zealand are the only two countries in the world to ever have had such absurd legislation on the statute books.

Last month, following years of campaigning by Mr Benhaim and a change.org petition, COAG finally approved the sale of hemp seed for human consumption.

Until now Mr Benhaim, who has 17 years experience in the industry, has had to market his product for ‘skincare purposes only’.

He described the recent change in legislation as ‘an overnight success after 17 years.’

TGA steps in

But just as he began gearing up for full-scale production, with markets opening up in Japan, Europe and South Korea, in stepped the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA), limiting the amount of cannabinoids in food products.

‘The ruling was intended to create a distinction between hemp foods and medicinal marijuana but it has had the unintended side effect of putting the brake on a range of products we were getting ready to produce,’ Mr Benhaim told Echonetdaily.

Ironically the limitation extended also to skin care products, just as he was putting the finishing touches to his own range of Sativa skin care products.

North coast jobs

Yesterday Mr Benhaim met with Labor Richmond federal MP Justine Elliot and shadow health spokesperson Walt Secord to implore them to help overturn the ruling.

Mr Benhaim told them he is ‘ready to expand 400 per cent’, is currently advertising three new positions in his Bangalow office alone, and is ‘capable of offering three year rolling contracts’ to farmers covering up to 1,600 hectares of industrial hemp.

Mr Secord congratulated Mr Benhaim on his efforts, adding that ‘from a selfish point of view I hope it creates jobs and investment on the north coast. I’m excited to see an expansion.’

He added that ‘I’m advised that [hemp seed] tastes “nutty”.’

Mr Benhaim said he was told by the TGA that an outcome of a review into the ruling ‘would be announced this week.’

Ms Elliot said she would continue to pursue the he matter federally.

Hemp food products will go on sale legally in Australia from November but when skincare products will be available is still unclear.

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  1. OMG I hope sanity prevails ! It’s as if the government is purposefully putting a handbrake on economic growth in the Northern Rivers Region. How absurd – the demographics suggest new industries are badly needed to rescue this part of Oz from poverty, disadvantage and the costly social & mental health problems that that brings down on the head of local communities. Good heavens – if Jamie Oliver can put together such scrumptious recipes for hemp food products (and buy the ingredients at his local Sainsburys supermarket) … why on earth should our local foodie culture (which has such a huge tourist appeal – and seriously rocks it) be diminished? Makes us look like idiots (and we sure as heck aren’t). This government seems to fail at every turn when it comes to economic management. And while we are on the subject – why are they finding it impossible to legalize medicinal cannabis in a way that patients can actually access it? This is another primary/ secondary industry that is well suited to the north coast (Oz’s premier source of expertise is housed in Nimbin – The Hemp Embassy) – it is patently ridiculous to require it’s import from overseas sources … we should be exporting it big time (and helping to get Oz powering away as a happening global country). Nonsensical to me – but then, polly’s are frequently a mystery IMHO (I wonder which world they live in – certainly not mine).


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