Industrial hemp (low-THC cannabis)
Low-THC cannabis is cultivars of the genus Cannabis L. that have very low levels of tetrahydrocannabinol (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 1.0 per cent 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.
The allowable THC for crops planted as industrial hemp (low-THC cannabis) in Victoria is as follows:
- The seed used for sowing must be harvested from a low-THC cannabis crop with a THC level of 0.5 per cent or less; and
- Crops tested at 1 per cent THC or less may be harvested and processed for food (from the seed only) and/or fibre (from the stem only).
This means that crops tested in the range of 0.5 to 1 per cent THC are suitable for processing only and seed from these crops must not be used for sowing.
Any cannabis greater than 1.0 per cent is not low-THC cannabis and enforcement actions may be required.
Cultivating low-THC cannabis
A licensee must only use seed for sowing that was harvested from a low-THC cannabis crop with a THC level of less than 0.5 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 1 per cent THC. Crops tested in the range of 0.5 to 1 per cent THC are suitable for processing only and seed from these crops must not be used for sowing.
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.
Can I feed low THC cannabis (hemp) to livestock?
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.
It is not legal to feed the following to food-producing animals:
- any hemp plant that still has leaves, flowers or seeds attached
- "failed" industrial hemp crops left unharvested in a growing paddock, or
- non-denatured hemp seed.
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.
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 criminal history checks for themselves and their associates
- 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:
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 – $477.00
Licence renewal fee:
- 9.5 fee units – $151.10
Inspector fee for certain activities (sampling, inspections):
- 3.5 fee units per quarter hour – $55.70
Inspector fee for inspection or assessment of proposed new sites (for current licence holders):
- 3.5 fee units per quarter hour – $55.70
Maximum daily rate for inspector fee for each activity:
- 56 fee units – $890.40
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).
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.
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 assault; or
- an offence under section 72B of the Drugs Poisons and Controlled Substances Act 1981 (the Act); or
- any offence under the Act with a penalty of imprisonment of more than one year; or
- an offence equivalent to an offence referred to in paragraphs (a), (b) or (c) under the law of another jurisdiction.
- the applicant or an associate are deemed by Agriculture Victoria to not be a suitable person to be concerned with the cultivation, processing or supply of the crop.
- the application is opposed by Chief Commissioner of Police
- 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.
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.
For more information, including application forms and guidelines, please contact the Customer Service Centre on 136 186.