ABC News Australia – Industrial hemp vying to take over Victoria’s timber industry, but not all politicians agree

Hemp advocates hail the “stigmatised” crop as the billion-dollar saviour of Victoria’s ailing timber industry, but politicians are concerned the industry could pave the way to legalising cannabis.

The cannabis variety can be processed into a range of building materials, many of which are heat or fire resistant.

Just six farmers are growing fewer than 200 hectares of hemp in Victoria, while Tasmania’s $4.5 million industry grows around six times that amount.

That’s a drop in the ocean when compared with the global industry, which is expected to grow from about $7 billion a year to more than $27 billion by 2027.

Victoria and Canada both passed legislation to allow industrial hemp cultivation and processing in 1998.

While Canada has become a world leader in production, Australia remains far behind.

Timber replacement

The Victorian government made the shock announcement on May 23 that native logging would end by January 1, almost seven years ahead of schedule.

Processors in Gippsland could replace timber with hemp, says Darren Christie, president of the non-profit industry organisation iHemp Victoria.

This would maintain employment and financial stability for logging communities while offering a solution to building supply shortages, he says.

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