Proposed changes to the Misuse of Drugs (Industrial Hemp) Regulations 2006 and regulations under the Food Act 2014

Closing Date:
Contact: Food policy team

Update – 12 November 2018

Decision announced: What has changed?

The Misuse of Drugs (Industrial Hemp) Regulations 2006 and the Food Regulations 2015 will be amended to allow the sale of hemp seed as food from 12 November 2018.

The changes provide for:

  • consistency between the Food Standards Code to allow low-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) hemp seed as food and the Industrial Hemp Regulations
  • regulations under the Food Act 2014 to declare low-THC hemp seed to be a food
  • greater flexibility around licensing to possess, cultivate, and trade in low-THC hemp.

Consultation ran from 10 May 2018 to 20 June 2018 and 64 submissions were received. Submitters expressed strong support for hemp seed as food and requested more guidance surrounding the Misuse of Drugs (Industrial Hemp) Regulations 2006.

Find out more


Discussion document

Download the discussion document on the proposed changes [PDF, 265 KB]

Questions and answers

What is hemp?

  • Hemp is a Cannabis sativa plant species, but with a low THC content.
  • Hemp is used for several purposes, for example as a textile, building material and paper. Hemp seeds can also be eaten, or they can be processed to make foods such as hemp seed oil, or hemp milk.
  • Hemp seeds contain close to zero THC, the substance which produces a psychoactive effect. They can, however, have trace levels of THC from the leaves of the plant.

Is there a link between hemp seed as food and medicinal cannabis?

  • No. The levels of active cannabinoids in low-THC hemp food products are well below any level that has proven to have any form of therapeutic effect.
  • Products from cannabis that have a therapeutic effect must follow a different regulatory pathway to hemp seeds as food.
  • The amended Standard 1.4.4 sets in place restrictions on the labelling, marketing, and advertising of these products.
  • The label for the food must not include the words 'cannabis', 'marijuana' or words of similar meaning.
  • The labels must not include an image or representation of any part of the cannabis plant, except for the seed.

Can hemp seed food contain cannabidiol?

  • Cannabidiol is derived from the plant’s flowers and leaves and is a prescription medicine. The new permission is for hemp seeds only.
  • Naturally occurring cannabidiol must not be present in any food for sale at a level greater than 75mg/kg, which will not cause any therapeutic or psychoactive effect.
  • If food or water is infused with cannabidiol, it becomes a medicine and must be registered with the Ministry of Health.

Are hemp seed foods safe to eat?

  • Hemp seeds (and the food products made from seeds) are safe to eat.
  • Hemp seeds have a favourable nutritional profile, particularly with respect to omega-3 fatty acids.
  • Hemp seeds do not produce a psychoactive or therapeutic effect.

Will consuming low-THC hemp seed food products cause someone to fail a roadside or workplace drug test?

  • Swinburne University of Technology research concluded that it is highly unlikely that consumption of food containing trace levels of THC (that comply with the amended Standard 1.4.4) would result in any THC-positive oral fluid, urine or blood-based drug test.

How will it be enforced?

  • Hemp growers and anyone handling whole seeds require a licence.
  • The Police and Ministry of Health enforce the licensing regime. The licence is only available to eligible applicants. Once issued, it is very specific and details the exact activities that can be undertaken at the specific location, involving a specified area of land, growing only those cultivars listed on the licence.
  • Information about eligibility for a licence is available from the Ministry of Health.
  • MPI will ensure hemp food products are monitored through the normal process of ensuring food is safe and suitable to eat. These processes involve registering a business under the Food Act 2014 and adhering to all other MPI requirements that are applicable to the product and situation.

What will happen at the border when hemp seed food products are imported into or exported from New Zealand?

  • Whole hemp seeds require an import or export licence from the Ministry of Health, which will remain the same.  
  • Operators possessing hulled hemp seeds and hemp food products will not require a licence. Food importers will still need to register with MPI.
  • Operators possessing whole hemp seeds (with the hull on), for example, to make hemp seed oil, will continue to require a licence.
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