‘Secret’ hemp trial a success on Coast

A big misconception about hemp is the link to marijuana and ability to get high from smoking it

A big misconception about hemp is the link to marijuana and ability to get high from smoking it

INTERNATIONAL NEWS: The Gisborne Herald’s March 2017 photograph of Hikurangi Enterprises managing director Rob Thomson in a story on a trial community hemp crop featured in a recent Thomson Reuters Foundation article on Hikurangi Cannabis Company.
Getting involved in the harvest are in the front Robin Davis, with Campbell Davis (left) and Atarina Keelan behind him.
COMMUNITY ENGAGEMENT: A major aspect of Hikurangi Enterprises' hemp trial over summer was to engage the community and start conversations. A hemp hui this week brought growers and interested groups from all over the country discuss the potential of the industry.

Pictures by Rebecca Grunwell.
Mike King got involved in the harvest.
Lending a helping harvesting hand is Pete Krzinich.
FUTURE INDUSTRY: A hemp industry on the Coast could bring employment as well as benefit the land, says Hikurangi Enterprises general manager Panapa Ehau. Picture by Rebecca Grunwell.

A SUCCESSFUL hemp trial near Ruatoria has opened up possibilities for a new industry and employment opportunities on the Coast. Ruatoria-based charitable company Hikurangi Enterprises yesterday invited the community to come and help harvest the crop of about 5000 plants at its “secret” East Coast location.

About 50 curious people went to smell and touch the plant that could be part of the region’s economic future.

“Involving the community, having conversations about it and creating employment potential in the region is the whole reason we are doing this,” general manager Panapa Ehau said. “We have never grown it before, but it looks like a success. If it ends up working out we are in it for the long haul.”

Hikurangi Enterprises planted the crop mid-December with a licence from the Health Ministry.

“We have a really good climate here and there are good skills in the community for growing hemp,” Mr Ehau said. “The East Coast grows some of the best marijuana in the country so we have definitely got the skills.”

Hemp is also good for the whenua (land), which in the region is highly susceptible to erosion. Other plants like maize really erode the whenua.

“And hemp does not need any herbicides or pesticides.”

Although other weeds grew up around the hemp during the trial, they looked after the crop, acting as a “sunscreen” over the hot summer.

“If paths open up, we may be able to get enough income from growing hemp on the flat land so we can retire the steep whenua from cattle and sheep-rearing to native ngahere (forest), so it is not eroding any more and we do not have to put pine trees in.”

They will process the roots as well as the stalks, seeds and seed husks to do a range of trials.

Some of the seed will be used for other crops while oil extracted from the rest of the seeds will be used in food, health and skincare product trials. The fibres from the stalks and the rest of the plant will be trialled as a building material, and in textiles. Based on how the trials go and the level of community backing, Hikurangi Enterprises will look at developing more hemp in the region.

A big misconception about hemp is the link to marijuana and ability to get high from smoking it. Although industrial hemp is from the same family as marijuana, it does not have enough THC to produce any physical or psychological effects.

“In industrial hemp, the THC level has to be below 0.35 percent or we have to destroy the crop,” Mr Ehau said. “There are a lot of good health properties but you could not get high on this if you tried. The saying going around is you would have to smoke a joint the size of a power pole but you would likely get excruciating headaches.”

The Institute of Environmental Science and Research verified the THC level in their crop was less than 0.1 percent. Because there had been a lot of interest in the crop during the trial they had been liaising with local marijuana growers to ensure the risk of cross-pollination was reduced.

“It would be detrimental to both hemp and marijuana crops if the plants cross pollinated,” Mr Ehau said.

Rob Thomson, of Te Araroa, said getting to see how successful the trial had been was “awesome”.

“It has been in the plans for a few years so it is awesome for them to just do it. There are plenty of future employment opportunities with hemp, and the land and climate here is suited well to growing it. There could be enormous benefits for our people, for Ngati Porou.”

A SUCCESSFUL hemp trial near Ruatoria has opened up possibilities for a new industry and employment opportunities on the Coast. Ruatoria-based charitable company Hikurangi Enterprises yesterday invited the community to come and help harvest the crop of about 5000 plants at its “secret” East Coast location.

About 50 curious people went to smell and touch the plant that could be part of the region’s economic future.

“Involving the community, having conversations about it and creating employment potential in the region is the whole reason we are doing this,” general manager Panapa Ehau said. “We have never grown it before, but it looks like a success. If it ends up working out we are in it for the long haul.”

Hikurangi Enterprises planted the crop mid-December with a licence from the Health Ministry.

“We have a really good climate here and there are good skills in the community for growing hemp,” Mr Ehau said. “The East Coast grows some of the best marijuana in the country so we have definitely got the skills.”

Hemp is also good for the whenua (land), which in the region is highly susceptible to erosion. Other plants like maize really erode the whenua.

“And hemp does not need any herbicides or pesticides.”

Although other weeds grew up around the hemp during the trial, they looked after the crop, acting as a “sunscreen” over the hot summer.

“If paths open up, we may be able to get enough income from growing hemp on the flat land so we can retire the steep whenua from cattle and sheep-rearing to native ngahere (forest), so it is not eroding any more and we do not have to put pine trees in.”

They will process the roots as well as the stalks, seeds and seed husks to do a range of trials.

Some of the seed will be used for other crops while oil extracted from the rest of the seeds will be used in food, health and skincare product trials. The fibres from the stalks and the rest of the plant will be trialled as a building material, and in textiles. Based on how the trials go and the level of community backing, Hikurangi Enterprises will look at developing more hemp in the region.

A big misconception about hemp is the link to marijuana and ability to get high from smoking it. Although industrial hemp is from the same family as marijuana, it does not have enough THC to produce any physical or psychological effects.

“In industrial hemp, the THC level has to be below 0.35 percent or we have to destroy the crop,” Mr Ehau said. “There are a lot of good health properties but you could not get high on this if you tried. The saying going around is you would have to smoke a joint the size of a power pole but you would likely get excruciating headaches.”

The Institute of Environmental Science and Research verified the THC level in their crop was less than 0.1 percent. Because there had been a lot of interest in the crop during the trial they had been liaising with local marijuana growers to ensure the risk of cross-pollination was reduced.

“It would be detrimental to both hemp and marijuana crops if the plants cross pollinated,” Mr Ehau said.

Rob Thomson, of Te Araroa, said getting to see how successful the trial had been was “awesome”.

“It has been in the plans for a few years so it is awesome for them to just do it. There are plenty of future employment opportunities with hemp, and the land and climate here is suited well to growing it. There could be enormous benefits for our people, for Ngati Porou.”

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Sonia Clark - 2 years ago
Good luck guys. It's potential as a business and for various production lines seem endless, with great opportunities for the local community. I salute you.

Susan - 2 years ago
Where can I buy the tincture for medical purposes please . . .