It’s in drinks, it’s in food, it’s in your clothes, and it’s even in pet products! But despite the sudden rise and popularity, hemp has hit a speed bump in Christchurch New Zealand.
Hemp is a strain of the cannabis sativa plant, unlike its famous family member marijuana it does not have psychoactive properties, obtains low levels of THC (tetrahydrocannabinol), and cannot be used to make people high. It has had a long history first used for textiles up to 10,000 years ago, and is believed to have over 25,000 possible applications.
Recently hemp has soared in popularity and name recognition. In 2018 hemp farming was legalised by the United States, and in New Zealand growers must have a permit, but no longer need to call their crop an experiment.
However, one group in Christchurch New Zealand has hit a bit of a snag. The NZ Institute of Cannabis Education, Research and Development also known as Whakamana, (Maori for: to restore the mana (prestige) of / or to empower), hopes to develop hemp on an empty block in the city central opposite their headquarters.
Unfortunately for the institute, the licence to grow requires that the crop is grown in a space not visible from a public road, or within five kilometres (3.1 miles) of a residential or housing area. Whakamana would be violating both and is not expected to have their license granted at this stage; However the attempt provides advocates with an opportunity for both publicity and education.
As previously explained, hemp is similar but different chemically from marijuana, however both wide-spread public knowledge of hemp and the differences between the two strains of cannabis sativa plant are low. In The United States, there are even reports of people mistaking hemp for marijuana and stealing the crop!
Regardless of personal opinions, and whether one agrees with a having farm in the middle of a city or not; More awareness and knowledge of a plant that is increasingly appearing in products around people will always be positive, and will allow individuals to make educated choices regarding whether hemp is right for themselves and their families when they come into contact with it.
Whakamana’s goals arise at the same time that New Zealand as a country is contemplating legalising cannabis. In 2020 the country will participate in a referendum on the decision and has this has spurred energetic debate and discussion within the small south pacific nation.
Currently under New Zealand law possession of any amount of cannabis is illegal, however a poll taken in 2016 found that 65 per cent of participants thought that personal possession of cannabis should be made legal or at least decriminalised. 84 per cent felt that cannabis should be available and decriminalised for pain relief use.
Interestingly, it is still unsure whether the New Zealand public will be able to vote on the use of cannabis for medical reasons, as a draft of the referendum questions released earlier this year did not explicitly include medical use.