This article explains iHemp’s relationship with the UN Single Convention 1961 and includes comments on the European Union rules. It is based on a Council of the European Union non-paper.
The regulatory system in Aotearoa/New Zealand (and most other countries) is based on the UN Single Convention 1961, and the amendments in the Convention on Psychotropic Substances 1971 & the Convention of Psychotropic Substances of 1988.
This is quite involved as it covers recreational, medicinal, and industrial use of the hemp plant. But concentrating on iHemp shows the pathway for our iHemp industry.
Extracted from our IHemp regulations 2006:
"The object of these regulations is to enable the cultivation and distribution of industrial hemp under a licensing regime that ensures that other forms of cannabis are not cultivated and distributed under the guise of industrial hemp".
A hemp product means a product of a kind that is derived, in whole or in part, from industrial hemp; and (Ed. should be or) a hemp seed food product.
Industrial hemp means hemp in the form of – (a) plants with a THC content that is—(i) generally below 0.35%; and (ii) is not above 0.5%; or (b) seeds harvested from plants of that kind.
Section 67 – Permission – every person is permitted to possess, use, and trade in (including export) – hemp products, hulled hemp seeds; and stalks of industrial hemp, as long as those stalks are without leaves or fruit.
This means, Ministry of Health (MOH, who administer the Misuse of Drugs Act – MoDA) issue “licences” under the iHemp regulations to grow low THC industrial hemp and only industrial hemp can be made into hemp products available for sale.
The industries interpretation of the regulations is that they were created to remove us from being a controlled drug, to allow an “enabled” industry to develop, without the extra controls required for high THC cannabis products.
Disappointingly the MOH continues to treat us like a controlled drug.
In Aotearoa/New Zealand – hemp seed is legal as a hemp food product, fibre (with no leaves) is automatically a “hemp product”.
Currently, MPI’s position is that animal use is entirely prohibited in Aotearoa/New Zealand for both production and companion animals – this covers iHemp in any form.
We do not currently have industrial access to the leaves and flowering and fruiting tops, which contain naturally occurring levels of THC (controlled drug) and CBD (Prescription Medicine)
In time the Governments position will need to evolve, a framework is needed that allows access to the high value export and domestic markets for health and wellness products. Including Animal feed, additives and veterinary medicines. These markets have the potential to quickly provide cashflow and speed up the success of our emerging seed and fiber industries.
How we got here
MoDA covers cannabis, and our iHemp regulations reflect the acknowledgment by The UN single Convention, that low THC industrial Hemp (iHemp) has industrial uses, distinct from the high THC medicinal and recreational uses.
Pursuant to "Article 1(1)(b) of the Convention, “Cannabis” means the flowering or fruiting tops of the cannabis plant (excluding the seeds and leaves when not accompanied by the tops) from which the resin has not been extracted, by whatever name they may be designated”. Cannabis plant is defined in Article 1(1)(c) as any plant of the genus Cannabis."
This is our first indication that iHemp should not be treated as higher THC cannabis -drug, which is included in Schedule I of the Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs which includes an entry concerning “Cannabis and cannabis resin and extracts and tinctures of cannabis”. “Cannabis and cannabis resin” which are clearly different to industrial use of seed, fibre and leaves from low THC industrial hemp.
What does this mean and how can we use cannabis
The Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs limits the "cultivation of the cannabis plant for the production, its manufacture, export, import, distribution of, trade in, and the use of cannabis or cannabis resin exclusively to medical and scientific purposes. This limitation covers the plant in its entirety, the flowering and fruiting tops and the seeds and leaves of the cannabis plant, when accompanied by the tops". In accordance with its Article 28(2), the Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs "does not apply to the cultivation of the cannabis plant, when it is cultivated exclusively for industrial purposes (fibre and seed) or horticultural purposes".
We can see that cannabis can be used in two ways, as a controlled drug for medical and scientific purposes or under Article 28.2 for industrial (fibre and seed) or horticultural purposes. Combining Article 28.2 with Article 1(1)(b) the iHemp industry may also have access to the leaves, when not accompanied by the flowering tops.
The case of cannabinoids and in particular of cannabidiol (“CBD”)
"Cannabinoids are various naturally-occurring, biologically active, chemical constituents of the cannabis plant. The most notable cannabinoid is tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the primary psychoactive compound in cannabis. Cannabidiol is another major, non-psychoactive cannabinoid. Cannabinoids, as a class of compounds, are not listed in the schedules of the International Drug Control Conventions as such".
What does the EU say
The common agricultural policy regulations already provide strict conditions to prevent illegal use of the hemp plants, Member States cannot prohibit the cultivation of industrial hemp in their territory and deprive the farmers of this opportunity.
Hemp Seeds –
• Council of the European Union (WK 14407 2019 REV 1): https://data.consilium.europa.eu/doc/document/ST-10189-2021-INIT/en/pdf
• Article 28 Commentary on the single convention 1961: Page 312 Cannabis – From Commentary_on_the_single_convention_1961