INVERCARGILL man Paul Wright hopes Southland continues to investigate the economic potential the hemp industry can provide the province.
Mr Wright plans to open a store in Dee St in Invercargill in the coming weeks which will sell hemp products. Included will be clothing, natural skin care products, oils, and supplements.
He plans to sell hemp seeds when the sale of hemp seed foods becomes legal later this year.
For many years various authorities have talked about hemp as a possible industry for Southland, but little has materialised.
Mr Wright believed the demand for hemp-based products would continue to grow and there was now an opportunity for Southland farmers to diversify into growing hemp.
He said it was a multi-use product and given it was biodegradable it provided a good solution for waste problems.
Last month Mr Wright, along with 250 other people, attended a New Zealand hemp summit in Wellington.
Among the attendees were regional officials, including some mayors, who were investigating the potential opportunities the hemp industry might provide, Mr Wright said.
“There is not enough supply for the demand there is, especially with the hemp seeds,” Mr Wright said.
“We need to get in on the wagon or we are going to miss out. It’s a clean, green plant, there is nothing dirty about it at all. It can help the environment,” he said.
Mr Wright conceded hemp had a stigma about it and that had probably put farmers off taking the plunge into producing hemp.
Hemp is part of the cannabis family, although it is without the THC euphoric high effects.
“You can’t get high off it. A lot of the farmers are worried about it, there is a big stigma about it. There is a misconception between hemp and cannabis. So there needs to be some more education around that,” he said.
Mr Wright was introduced to the hemp industry by his brother-in-law Donald McIntosh.
Mr McIntosh grows hemp in the Catlins and was also the chairman of the New Zealand Hemp Industries Association.
Mr Wright had investigated growing hemp himself in Southland, but he said a 25-year-old drug conviction had blocked him from getting the licence needed to grow hemp.
What is hemp?
Hemp is a variety of the cannabis plant species which is grown specifically for the industrial uses of its derived products
Although hemp is part of the cannabis family, it has lower concentrations of THC which decreases or eliminates its psychoactive effects
What can industrial hemp be used for?
Clothing, rope, paper, building materials, biodegradable plastics, food supplements, oils, skin care, animal feed