Ms FORREST (Murchison) - Mr President, I am not going to repeat what other people have said except to say that it is about time. It has been a long time coming and for the life of me I cannot see why we as a collective, and policymakers, have been so afraid of industrial hemp and low-THC cannabis or industrial hemp plants.
It beggars belief that we can get so sucked in to some rhetoric by some people who have this scaremongering approach to a product that has been used for centuries for food and fibre. We still cannot get to the food bit but at least we are getting to the fibre bit. It beggars belief that we still have to fight these battles and we go to such lengths in even this legislation to still almost demonise the product. Everyone I speak to out in the community about this cannot understand it either.
When I get around my electorate which is predominantly agricultural and with discussions I have on industrial hemp and even low-THC medicinal cannabis, people cannot see what all this stupid fuss has been about, and this big barrier that has been put up and this big scary monster that is going to come and destroy our youth. That is the sort of message that has been put out there. It is a complete nonsense.
I am pleased to see this legislation. I am not pleased to see all the requirements in there - I think it is like a sledgehammer cracking a nut again. I think it is because of this fear campaign that has been run for decades, demonising a plant that should not be demonised.
I am going to speak in a little more detail on a couple of points in this bill. I am not sure where the member for Launceston's summary came from. She may like to indicate the source of that description about the differences between marijuana plants and industrial hemp.
Mrs Armitage - It was by David P. West PhD for the North American Industrial Hemp Council. I should have said that at the beginning.
Ms FORREST - I am concerned that we are putting additional requirements on farmers who wish to grow industrial hemp that are not imposed on poppy growers. Poppy growers grow a product. Yes, we know what it looks like. We also know that amongst the fields there are a lot of thebaine poppies which kill people. It is much more dangerous. We have had this discussion in our medicinal cannabis inquiry, that a barbed-wire fence, probably electrified, with a sign on it saying 'keep out' is all the security we need. We know that some - mostly Danish tourists - cannot read those signs and have unfortunately died as a result of consumption of these poppies. They did not just get a bit high, they died.
I am concerned that we are requiring information here that has been provided by other people about a person applying for a licence. We will get to that in the Committee stage in more detail so I will not go into it all now. I do appreciate the information from the Government, the question and answer forms we get and the briefings. It is all very helpful. However, in regard to a question I asked in the briefing - and I assume the information was basically read from this document because it was almost exactly what is here - we were told in the briefing, and it is contained in the question and answer sheet on page 4, 'Why can the Secretary ask for financial information from a licensed applicant?' - and it is not just financial information, it is other confidential information, according to the bill - we were told that -
Industrial hemp crops can potentially be used as a cover for illicit cannabis production. The Secretary has the power to investigate an application and request further information from an applicant. This includes financial and confidential information. These provisions will not be invoked for every licence application. If the Secretary has concerns about an application, the Secretary can request an applicant to provide financial information.
This answer does not say it but it should include 'and other confidential information'.
The purpose is to mitigate risks to the industrial hemp industry.
What this question and answer document fails to say is that it is from another person, it is not from the person concerned. You are going somewhere else, potentially without even the knowledge of that person. There is no protection there. I assume a bank would say, 'I'm sorry, I cannot release that information without the consent of the applicant.' One would expect they would do that, but the secretary is demanding this. In proposed section 7(3) it goes on to say - If a requirement made under this section is not complied with, the Secretary may refuse to determine the application.
The person may not be issued an application because of information provided by somebody else they have no knowledge of.
To finish the question and answer, 'All licensing information will be collected and held in accordance with the Personal Information Protection Act 2004.' There is nothing in the bill that says that; one just assumes that is the case. 'This act, in particular the personal information principles, governs how personal information should be collected, used, stored and accessed.'
I go back to the point that subclause (b) of 7(2) says this is information from other people. It is not from the person concerned. I think it is very heavy-handed and unnecessary. When I go back to the member for Launceston's comments and the document that she read, it seems highly unlikely for someone who knows the field - no pun intended - that industrial hemp would be grown in the same location as marijuana. Even the crop is different. You harvest the flowers for marijuana while you harvest the plant for industrial hemp. I find this unnecessary.
There was a concern we want to get this bill through - we do. There will already be an amendment the Leader has flagged. I thought there would be no point in me trying to get one up or even have an argument about it on the basis it might be the only one. There will be that argument used as well, but that is cleaning up the case, that removes that little barrier.
Mr President, I would be inclined to seek an amendment to remove that clause, subclause (b), but I do not think it is necessary. When you go to clause 7(2), 'The Secretary may, by notice in writing, require an applicant to provide such information and produce such records as are relevant to the investigation of the application and specified in the notice', that gives pretty broad scope for asking for information from the applicant. I do not think we need to go that bit further and we certainly do not ask it of the poppy growers, who are growing potentially a much more dangerous crop.
I do not know if the Leader will speak more to her proposed amendment as she did speak to it in detail in her second reading contribution, about the relationship with the Poisons Act. She was making it clear that in any research and other things done with industrial hemp, this bill overrides the Poisons Act. Farmers are not going to be growing in contravention of the Poisons Act. It is a shame we do not extend that further to the medicinal cannabis framework. This is the problem that is holding up research in this area in Tasmania. Again, not a dangerous product; a product with low THC, high CBD, that has medicinal benefits we know about. Again we demonise that product to such an extent that we are going to wait another how long for that.
I am not going to muddy the waters by suggesting we do that here and now. I am making that point, that we have demonised industrial hemp for centuries, or decades in this state and we will probably continue to demonise medicinal cannabis unfortunately. I hope this is opening the door for more consideration of that because it is a product that can have huge benefits to the agricultural sector as well as to humans themselves.
I will pursue those matters more fully when we get to the Committee stage, but overall the bill itself has no real issues apart from that. It is clear that there will be inspections of crops and I can almost guarantee if someone does end up growing the wrong thing among their crop, they won't be doing it more than once.
As far as it damaging the whole industry, we have rogues in business, we have rogues in many areas and you have to weed out those rogues, no pun intended. The bill says the inspector may test any hemp cultivated under this act to determine the concentration of THC in the hemp. If someone mucks up, does it wrong, then there are provisions here.
It says the testing under this section is to be carried out at the times and in the manner prescribed by the regulations. We have yet to see the regulations, but one would expect them to be fairly rigorous and that there will be a requirement probably for all crops to be tested at certain times.
I cannot see what we are so scared about. We are going over the top. This Government is all about reducing red tape and regulation. Well, sorry, you are not doing it with that section. Anyway, I support the bill overall and the intent of the bill. I will take that matter further in Committee state.