Industrial hemp (low-THC cannabis)
Licensing for industrial hemp
A licence is required in Victoria to authorise the cultivation and processing of low-THC cannabis (industrial hemp) for non-therapeutic (not medicinal) purposes. Licences for industrial hemp are issued by Agriculture Victoria.
To apply for a licence, applicants are required to provide national police history checks, a credit report, a business or research plan and information about the proposed growing site(s) as part of the application process. Site inspections are also generally required.
Non-therapeutic uses of industrial hemp include fibre, cosmetics and food.
The licensing scheme for industrial hemp is provided under Part IVA of the Drugs, Poisons and Controlled Substances Act 1981.
An application form and guidelines can be obtained via the Customer Service Centre on 136 186.
Re-making of the Drugs, Poisons and Controlled Substances (Industrial Hemp) Regulations 2008
The Drugs, Poisons and Controlled Substances (Industrial Hemp) Regulations 2008 (hemp regulations) establish the fees for the application and renewal of hemp authorities and the fees charged by inspectors. The hemp regulations sunset on 26 August 2018. It is proposed that the Regulations are remade before this date.
Feedback on current and proposed regulations
As part of the review and remaking of the regulations, feedback was sought about the current and proposed hemp regulations. Submissions regarding the proposed hemp regulations closed 16 April 2018.
A summary of the current fees and charges (2018–19) established by the hemp regulations are provided below:
- Application fee: 30 fee units ($433.50)
- Renewal fee: 9.5 fee units ($137.30)
- Inspector fee: 3.5 fee units per quarter hour ($50.60)
- Maximum daily rate for inspector fee for each activity: 56 fee units ($809.20)
The value of a fee unit is set by the Victorian Government each year. It generally increases annually in line with inflation (consumer price index). The value of a fee unit in 2018–19 is $14.45.
The current hemp regulations are available at: www.legislation.vic.gov.au.
The current fees are proposed to remain unchanged. Agriculture Victoria proposes to introduce a new fee inspector fee for the assessment of sites that are requested to be added a current hemp authority. The proposed inspector fee would be charged at 3.5 fee units per quarter hour. The proposed new inspector fee replaces the flat licence amendment fee of 9.5 fee units, which was originally proposed.
Agriculture Victoria has received an increasing number of licence amendments as the industry expands and additional cultivation sites are requested. The proposed introduction of an inspector fee for the assessment of new sites is consistent with other agricultural licensing regimes.
The hemp regulations only deal with the fees and charges for hemp licensing.
Background to hemp seed as food
On 28 April 2017, following consideration by the Australia New Zealand Ministerial Forum on Food Regulation (Forum) the Australia New Zealand Food Standards Code was amended to permit low-THC hemp hulled seeds to be sold as, or used as an ingredient in, food.
The changes to the Food Standards Code commenced on 12 November 2017.
The official communique on the decision of the Forum can be found on the Food Regulation forum communique web page.
What is low-THC cannabis (industrial hemp)?
Low-THC cannabis is cultivars of the genus Cannabis L. that have very low levels of THC. Under the Drugs, Poisons and Controlled Substances Act 1981, low-THC cannabis means cannabis, the leaves and flowering heads of which do not contain more than 0.35 per cent of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC).
What is THC?
THC (tetrahydrocannabinol) is the psychoactive (mind altering) chemical compound found at high levels in marijuana and at very low levels in hemp.
How is low-THC cannabis (hemp) different from marijuana?
Both plants are the same species but marijuana contains significant levels of THC in its leaves and flowering heads.
Do I need a licence to grow low-THC cannabis (hemp) in Victoria?
Part IVA (Authorities for low-THC cannabis) of the Drugs, Poisons and Controlled Substances Act 1981 (the Act) allows for cultivation. It is an offence to cultivate low-THC cannabis without an authority issued under the Act.
How do I apply for a licence to cultivate, process and supply low-THC cannabis (hemp)?
An application form and guidelines can be obtained via the DEDJTR Customer Service Centre on 136 186.
Can anyone get a licence to grow low-THC cannabis (hemp)?
In order to prevent criminal activity in the cultivation and processing of low-THC cannabis Agriculture Victoria will not issue an authority to grow if:
- the applicant or any associate of the applicant has within the last 10 years been found guilty of a serious offence (serious offence means an indictable offence involving dishonesty, fraud or cultivation or trafficking in drugs of dependence where the maximum penalty exceeds 3 months imprisonment)
- the applicant and each associate are deemed by Agriculture Victoria not be a suitable person to be concerned with the cultivation, processing or supply of the crop. An application may also be referred to the Chief Commissioner of Police to assist in determining the application
- the applicant's property or premises is not suitable for the cultivation, processing, sale or supply in relation to location, facilities and proposed security arrangements.
What are the licensing costs?
The application fee for a three-year licence in 2018-19 is $433.50. Inspector fees and laboratory THC analysis charges also apply to licence holders. As a general guide these fees and charges can range from $500 to $1,500 annually (when a crop is grown) and are dependent on the number of crops sown, the crop size and the time taken to collect samples for THC analysis.
How is the crop sampled to check THC levels?
Licensees must ensure that the crop is sampled at the correct time by an Agriculture Victoria Inspector. The Inspector will submit the sample for analysis by an accredited laboratory. The sample must not exceed 0.35 per cent THC.
Is there a limit to the number of licences that can be issued?
Is there a minimum or maximum area that can be cultivated under a licence?
Once I have a licence can I grow low-THC cannabis wherever I want?
The licence holder must only cultivate at the site(s) described on the licence. A licensee may apply to amend a licence to add new cultivation areas. Any new areas must be assessed and approved by the department prior to planting.
Do I need to own the property where I propose to grow low-THC cannabis?
No, but the department will require proof that you are fully responsible for the management of the land whilst it is being cultivated. Usually this means providing Agriculture Victoria with a copy of a valid lease agreement.
Where can I source seed?
A licensee must only use seed for sowing that was harvested from a low-THC cannabis crop with a THC level of less than 0.35 per cent.
Can I cultivate and supply low-THC cannabis seed for human consumption?
Since 12 November 2017 the Australia New Zealand Food Standards Code permits permit low-THC hemp hulled seeds to be sold as, or used as an ingredient in, food. The sale of these foods is subject to the restrictions in Food Standard 1.4.4.
Leaves, flowering heads and other parts of the low-THC hemp plant must not be sold as food for human consumption.
Can I produce and/or supply medicinal or therapeutic products from low-THC cannabis cultivated under a Victorian licence?
Only the Australian Government, through the Office of Drug Control, can authorise the production and supply of cannabis related products for human medicinal or therapeutic purposes.
Further information regarding medicinal cannabis can be found on the medicinal cannabis page.
Can I allow livestock to graze low-THC cannabis crops or their residues?
No. Plants or parts of plants may not be used as stock feed except for processed cannabis.
Processed cannabis means:
- low-THC cannabis plants grown under the appropriate licence in the jurisdiction in which they have been harvested or chemically or mechanically treated or artificially treated in another way and have no leaf, flowers or seed
- denatured seed from low-THC cannabis plants grown and denatured under the appropriate licence in the jurisdiction.
Low-THC hemp crop residues must not be used or sold as hay or silage.
For further information, including application forms and guidelines, please contact the Customer Service Centre on 136 186.