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% of the psychoactive chemical compound tetrahydrocannabinol (THC).

Although the same species, marijuana contains significantly higher levels of THC in its leaves and flowering heads than low-THC cannabis.

Cultivating low-THC cannabis

Seed requirements

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.

Leaves, flowering heads and other parts of the low-THC hemp plant must not be sold as food for human consumption.

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.

The licence holder will be invoiced by the laboratory for the cost of analysis of each sample and inspector charges will also apply.

Can I produce 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 our medicinal cannabis page.

Can I extract cannabidiol (CBD) or other cannabinoids from hemp under an industrial hemp licence

A hemp licence issued by Agriculture Victoria cannot authorise the processing of leaves and flowering heads, which is where the cannabinoids are found. In addition, a hemp licence issued by Agriculture Victoria cannot authorise activities related to the therapeutic use of cannabis.

Livestock grazing low-THC cannabis crops or their residues

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.

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 started on 12 November 2017.

The official communique on the decision of the Forum can be found at Food Regulation forum communique.

Licences

A licence is required in Victoria to authorise the cultivation and processing of industrial hemp and seed 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
  • credit report
  • business or research plan
  • information about the proposed growing site(s) as part of the application process.

Site assessments are also generally required.

Non-therapeutic uses of industrial hemp include:

  • fibre
  • cosmetics
  • 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 got from our Customer Service Centre on 136 186.

Current licence fees and inspector charges

Licence application fee:

  • 30 fee units — $444.30

Licence renewal fee:

  • 9.5 fee units — $140.70

Inspector fee for certain activities (sampling, inspections):

  • 3.5 fee units per quarter hour — $51.80

Inspector fee for inspection or assessment of proposed new sites (for current licence holders):

  • 3.5 fee units per quarter hour — $51.80

Maximum daily rate for inspector fee for each activity:

  • 56 fee units — $829.40

These fees and charges are established by the Drugs, Poisons and Controlled Substances (Industrial Hemp) Regulations 2018.

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 2019 to 2020 is $14.81.

As a general guide, licence fees and inspector charges, plus laboratory analysis costs can range from $500 to $1,500 annually (when a crop is grown) and are dependent on the number of crops and the time taken to collect samples for THC analysis.

Licence requirements

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.

If you do not own the land you will need to provide a valid lease agreement.

Limits to licences

There are no limits to the number of licences that can be issued.

Cultivated areas

There is no maximum or minimum limit placed on the cultivated area.

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.

More information

For more information, including application forms and guidelines, please contact the Customer Service Centre on 136 186.

Page last updated: 12 Jul 2020