What is delaying the Hemp revolution?

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Speaker: Dr Andrew Katelaris

About: It is generally unusual to be able to find a single solution to multiple serious problems.  Land and water degradation, accumulation of micro plastics in plant and animal life from synthetic fabrics and packaging, loss of forests, increasing costs for building products, deficiency of omega 3 containing foods.  These and many other problems began when the western world transitioned from a predominantly carbohydrate based economy to one much more reliant on extraction of hydrocarbons.  Prior to this Hemp was the world’s most grown crop and Hemp fibre the most traded commodity.  Intelligent historians link this to the destruction of the Hemp industries by the 1937 Marijuana Transfer Tax Act initiated by those with competing vested interests.  The introduction of these restrictive laws was opposed by Popular Mechanics magazine in 1938 when they published an article demonstrating the immense economic potential of the Hemp plant, stating it could produce over 20,000 items of commerce.

Hemp is a hardy, drought tolerant and highly adaptable plant that can suppress weeds and condition the soil.  Enabling legislation (Industrial Hemp Experimental Development) was passed in 1995, yet decades later there are only a few hundred hectares of Hemp grown here annually and very little tertiary production.  Is it likely we will ever see international scale non-wood paper mills, textile mills and a range of Hemp plastic fabrication plants here in Australia?  The factors that are limiting our transition from hydrocarbons to carbohydrates involve personal and political issues.  Small minded selfishness and ego issues has seen friction between the current participants in the nascent industries and contributed to the lack of progress.  However, It is unlikely that the Hemp industries can ever grow in any substantial manner without significant government involvement.  The Department of Primary Industries have contributed very little, while wasting time and money with unnecessary “compliance” issues.  By now there should have been well conducted field trials where all currently grown industrial cultivars are sown in replicate plots under identical conditions to determine their photo period and THC levels.  If compliant that would obviate the need for future THC testing, greatly facilitating confidence in undertaking large scale planting.  The different plants could be tested for fibre content, enabling optimisation of quality.  Further, once the photo period is established at a given latitude the flowering times can be calculated for anywhere and manipulated.  For example to increase biomass production seed flowering in March at Nimbin could be sown in Victoria with the increased growing season giving up to 30% increase yield.  The fastest way forward would be for the government to support the industry like they did the wool industry during its crisis, by setting a grading system and price for Hemp fibre and warehousing the bast for three years.  During this time production lines would be established, confident there was sufficient fibre to sustain production.  The farmers could confidently grow the Hemp bast for warehousing, while the hurd could find profitable application as hempcrete or hemp plastics.

It is an ongoing disgrace to Australia that we were the last country on Earth to legalise Hemp seed as a human food.  The applications passed the Food Standards but were blocked by the ministerial council, initially under Howard. The TGA and other regulatory bodies are a malignant joke, where pseudoscience is used to serve corporate interests, not public health.  The debacle that is the current medical Cannabis scheme illustrates the total disregard for those in need of its therapeutic effect.  Expensive imported product is preferred to locally grown bud, because it has not passed the TGA, described as the price maintenance unit for big pharma.  No attempt to match a particular cultivar to a specific effect, such as enhanced anticonvulsant effect has been undertaken.  Whether the acidic forms of the cannabinoids are of specific benefit in certain circumstances has not been determined.  Alarmingly, parents who administer Cannabis products to their children, or even use official Cannabis preparations for valid medical purposes have had their children at risk of seizure.

Which brings me onto my closing remarks.  NSW has the very dubious distinction internationally of having most children under the “care of the minister”.  My experience following the Chase seizure has opened my eyes to the terrible reality of the ongoing stolen generation.  DOCS, now DCJ and related interstate entities generate false ROSH (risk of serious harm) claims, bolstered by innuendo, exaggeration or outright lies and use section 43 to remove any child.  This often occurs on a Friday afternoon and the child is shunted into the Children’s Court and held under its power for two years without ability to appeal.  It is a grotesque problem.  The very misnamed “Children and Young Persons Care and Protection Act” provides the necessary protection for the perpetrators of these acts.  Section 105 prohibits the mentioning of the name of any child seized by the minister. The penalty is two years in gaol and as an act of extra malice the framers made it a strict liability offence, meaning that even if the action is for the benefit of the child then the offence still stands.  I am the first person to be charged under s105, although others subsequently charged were gaoled then deported.  Myself and others conducted a Constitutional challenge but the High Court refused to hear it.  Two supreme court judges directly informed me that it mattered not that a child was seized illegally by the government, s105 still applied.  I cannot accept what I see as judicial fascism and will be contesting the matter in October before a jury.  Before concluding I will share one more experience.  Last year I was in a licensing dispute with the police.  I took the matter to the AAT.  To my consternation the commissioner made an application to the tribunal to have evidence heard, in my absence. Evidently, the police were relying on illegally obtained evidence and didn’t want to disclose methodology.  I was incredulous then furious when informed by the tribunal that this was now a common occurrence.

Australia started as a penal colony and regrettably we have not evolved greatly.  A government that seizes children illegally with all the pain and generational trauma that is involved also torments medical Cannabis patients and law abiding citizens with inferior, expensive product and draconian saliva testing.  The window is rapidly closing on our ability to direct and own our future.  The frog in cold water analogy applies.  We have been seduced into a digital web of dependence and control and through its effect the Human spirit has been reduced.  After three decades of Hemp activism I am more convinced than ever that Hemp can indeed change the world and give a future we would be proud to hand to the next generation.  If the WEF version of the future is not enough to propel us to urgent action I don’t know what would be.

Bio: In 1988 research began assessing Industrial Hemp as a solution to the native forest logging problem.  In 1990 a trip to Wageningen University was undertaken to study the Dutch government’s “Hemp for Paper“ project. With this information and in co-operation with Fritz and Patsy, who began the Hemp for Paper consortium in Tasmania, we approached various state governments for co-operation, but found closed minds and closed doors.

A detailed study of the Drugs Misuse and Trafficking Act revealed Article 24(4)(b).  This section allowed the cultivation of an otherwise prohibited plant for scientific research and analysis. Up to that time this legislation had never been used and it took the government several years to recognise its validity.  In 1995, with the assistance of independent Tony Windsor, we introduced the Industrial Hemp (Experimental Development) Act as enabling legislation and finally in 1998 we obtained the first ever Hemp cultivation licence.

In an act of bureaucratic malfeasance the government made a caveat that only registered European cultivars be used in the trial, after being informed that such plants were not suitable for Australian conditions.  We circumvented this by travelling to Hungary and working with the world renown Hemp agronomist Professor Bosca, who crossed the European staple Kompolt with Asiatic varieties to produce Cannabis Australis.  This variety was very successful in our field trials producing over 20 tons of dry stem material per hectare.  I then formed a project with Professor Ron Postle, Textile Technology at UNSW.  An Italian textile variety was sent to labs in Germany and Japan and was found to have a fineness of 10-12 microns, earning much praise from the scientists.

In 1999 after discussion with the then chief health officer Dr Andrew Wilson my licence was extended to include the cultivation of up to twenty medical cultivars.  In 2001 Dr Wilson retired and was replaced by Greg Stewart. The mood had changed in the government and first the medical licences, then the industrial licences were cancelled.  In order not to lose the important genetics I planted half a hectare  and told people it was an experimental crop of kenaf.  This worked for a while but a malicious individual reported it and 30 armed police arrived and I was arrested and taken to Maitland gaol.  At my initial hearing Magistrate Jackson accepted our argument that these genetics were of national importance and gave an order protecting the crop for 10 days while further information was received.  The police, in an act of duplicity ignored this order and 10 of them spent the day pulling and counting the plants (40,000)  They then attempted to burn them but being green and with light rain this was difficult.  They then ordered a semitrailer load of old bridge timber and 200 litres of accelerant and eventually destroyed the crop.  Although threatened with a 20 year sentence I eventually was given a bond.

I continued the medical research but faced constant harassment from the medical board and the HCCC, despite the obvious clinical success that were being achieved in chronic pain and epilepsy.  In 2017 I was arrested and charged with supply, large commercial quantity, carrying a life sentence.  I conducted the first ever successful medical necessity defence, obtaining a resounding “not guilty” verdict from the jury after less than 30 minutes deliberation.
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