Industrial Hemp Agronomic Trials
Regulations Concerning the Import of
Hemp Products into Australia
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There are Commonwealth, State and Territory requirements to be addressed by importers of hemp products including seeds and oil from pressed seeds. Processed hemp products such as paper, hemp pulp, fabric and rope are exempt, but must be free of contamination with parts of hemp plants such as flowers, seeds leaves etc. To claim an exemption, fiber and pulp require a Certificate of Analysis stating it does not contain "any flowering or fruiting tops, leaves, seeds, stalks or any parts of a cannabis plant or cannabis plants."
Australia is signatory to the following three United Nations treaties which directly refer to international drug controls:
- Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs, 1961
- Convention on Psychotropic Substances, 1971
- United Nations Convention against Illicit Traffic in Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances, 1988
The Commonwealth undertakes import controls of hemp (Cannabis Sativa L. plants or parts of such plants) under the Customs Act 1901, through the Commonwealth Department of Human Services and Health (HSH).
The Single Convention specifically relates to the control of cannabis, but specifically exempts the cultivation of cannabis plants exclusively for industrial and horticultural purposes from the requirements of the Convention. At the same time, the Convention allows parties to "adopt such measures as may be necessary to prevent the misuse of' and illicit trade in, the leaves of the cannabis plant".
Article 14 of the Single Convention requires Parties to take appropriate measures to eradicate illicit cultivation of cannabis and other plants containing narcotics and psychotropics. Australia presently implements these controls through State and Territory legislation.
The Commonwealth Department of Human Services and Health is the agency responsible for the issue of licenses and permits for substances listed under Schedule 4 of the Customs (Prohibited Imports) Regulations of the Customs Act 1901; cannabis is listed in Schedule 4.
The Customs Act 1901 describes hemp (cannabis) as:
- "Cannabis" means a cannabis plant, whether living or dead, arid includes, it, any form, any flowering or fruiting tops, leaves, seeds, stalks or any parts of a cannabis plant or cannabis plants, but does not include cannabis resin or cannabis fiber.
- "Cannabis fiber" means goods that consist wholly or substantially of fiber obtained from a cannabis plant or cannabis plants but do not contain any other substance or thing obtained from a cannabis plant.
- "Cannabis resin" means a substance that consists wholly or substantially of resin (whether crude, purified or in any other form) obtained from a cannabis plant or cannabis plant.)
Other obligations under the Convention, including cultivation, licensing, eradication of illicit cultivation, trade and distribution, are met by relevant State and Territory legislation.
To import hemp seeds or oil, for example, a person must first be the holder of a License to Import and then obtain a separate Permit to Import for each shipment prior to its arrival in Australia. There are no provisions to issue retrospective permits.
To obtain a License to Import, potential importers must meet strict criteria. This includes proving that the premises where the controlled substances will be stored are secure and that persons having control over, or access to the controlled substances are fit and proper. After all these checks are made, a License to Import can be issued and an application for a Permit to Import can be made. However, before a Permit to Import can be issued, all other Commonwealth, State and Territory requirements must be met, including:
- State or Territory legislation concerning possession, use and cultivation (possession issues would need to be satisfied for more than one State or Territory if, for example, hemp seed were imported by a Customs Agent in Sydney and then sent directly to another State).
- National Food Authority (if oil, for example, is being imported for culinary/food purposes).
Australian Quarantine and Inspection Service requirements must be satisfied at the Customs Barrier before the shipment can be released.
This information on Commonwealth Legislation was provided by
Mr. Lindsay Jones
Assistant Director, Treaties and Monitoring
Drugs of Dependence Branch
Commonwealth Department of Human Services and Health
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This page last updated on 17 April 1999.