Monthly Archives: January 2014

Global hemp-for-food trend illegal

UNLIKE foodies in New York, Los Angeles and Denmark, Australian diners won’t be sitting down to a dessert of weed-oil parsley cake with hemp crumble in the near future.

But some of our top restaurateurs are hoping it won’t stay that way for long.

World-class restaurants across the globe have been dishing up hemp-smoked soft cheese, stuffed with fresh hemp leaves, served with a puree made from roasted and blended seeds and weed yoghurt with pumpernickel-marijuana croutons using low-THC varieties of the plant that do not give the ”high” usually associated with the plant.

But regulator Food Standards Australia New Zealand has repeatedly knocked back applications for hemp to be allowed as foodstuff despite it being legal in Britain, Canada and France.

As part of his innovation with food philosophy, ACT restaurateur Peter Harrington said he was open to using a TCH-free variety of marijuana if it were legal.

“Who knows, we might have it growing here in the hanging herb garden,” he said.

But at the moment basil and mint adorn the walls of the Sage restaurant courtyard. Usually smoked or eaten for its psychoactive effect, some strains of hemp have such small traces of THC that people would have to eat their own body weight in greens to notice any effect. In NSW a licence to grow low-TCH hemp for fibre or oil can be obtained, and the latest application to Food Standards Australia New Zealand for hemp to be allowed as food stuff is set to be considered this year.

Mr Harrington said it was important to give customers what they wanted and in Canberra that often meant pushing the boundaries.

“We are open-minded on using new ingredients … if it was legal and safe we’d definitely be open to looking at it … I don’t think it’s a gimmick. One of the chefs said he finds it complements herbs, but I think what people are looking for is exploring the limits and boundaries.”

The chief executive of the ACT Restaurant and Catering Association, John Hart, warned local chefs to work within Australian laws as the trend grew overseas.

“Usually we are the forefront of innovation, but in this case I don’t think there is much appetite for marijuana-laced dishes,” Mr Hart said.

“Any of these trends we would advise our members to only embark on what is legal and, providing the use of hemp in any form is within the law, then knock yourself out. But it doesn’t strike me as something that would be particularly tasty.”

Marijuana laws the real crime, say HEMP

Australia needs to chill out about marijuana and take its cue from US states Colorado and Washington by legalising the drug, the HEMP Party says.

Help End Marijuana Prohibition (HEMP) Party president Michael Balderstone says Australia needs to spark up a debate and a referendum over marijuana laws.

‘If we had a referendum here and had a proper open discussion – a month-long discussion – I would think it would pass,’ he told AAP.

‘Our stance is that the law is a crime.’

Mr Balderstone argues that the law might also be stopping tax revenue.

In Colorado, the sale of up to 28 grams – or an ounce – of weed became legal on January 1.

State officials anticipate sales will generate about $US67 million ($A75.55 million) in annual tax windfall.

But critics say it will turn the Rockies into the stonies by creating a culture of ‘pot tourism’.

Mr Balderstone does not deny the drug has been linked to psychosis, but argues the health damage is less, on average, than that caused by tobacco and alcohol.

‘Absolutely, it can (cause psychosis),’ he said.

‘It’s not for everybody, I agree.’

But he maintains people who get high are more likely to stay in than go out and cause trouble.

The Australian Drug Foundation warns there is no safe level of drug use.

‘Those with a family history of mental illness are more likely to also experience anxiety, depression and psychotic symptoms after using cannabis,’ the foundation says on its website.

‘Psychotic symptoms include delusions, hallucinations and seeing or hearing things that do not exist or are distorted.’

In May a NSW parliamentary committee recommended legislation to allow medical use of marijuana by patients with a terminal illness, and for those who have moved from HIV infection to AIDS.

The recommendation, rejected by the government, called for patients to have up to 15 grams of dry cannabis or the equivalent amount of other cannabis products and equipment.

A study published in medical journal The Lancet in 2012 showed 15 per cent of Australians and New Zealanders between the ages of 15 and 64 in 2009 used marijuana that year.

That figure was higher than usage in the US, where 11 per cent of the population got high that year.

Australia’s pot laws vary from state to state – the drug is illegal in NSW, Queensland, Victoria and Tasmania.

Possession of marijuana mostly attracts fines in the ACT and NT, while WA users receive mandatory drug diversion counselling if caught with 10 grams.

Marijuana for medical use is legal and regulated in 19 US states, and has been allowed in some cases for the past 20 years.