Hemp has a bad wrap for being only for the hippies. However hemp actually is a high source of protein that boasts of a distinctly nutty flavour. Derived from the same species as cannabis, a lot of hype has surrounded hemp especially after it was legalised for consumption in Australia in November.

The legislation that was introduced means that food made with hemp products can be purchased more readily. As a sign of the growing hemp movement, there’s even a hemp festival called “Hemp, Health & Innovation Expo and Symposium”. The event will be held on May 12 and 13, 2018 at the Rosehill Gardens – Exhibition Centre in Sydney.

The change in law approving hemp for food consumption comes after a lengthy campaign conducted by activists and a comprehensive review by the Food Standards Australia New Zealand (FSANZ). The decision to allow the sale of hemp food was actually made by the relevant ministers for food regulation back in April. However, the implementation got delayed to give room for the completion of changes in the legislation.

According to a spokesperson for FSANZ, their risk assessment uncovered that “low-THC hemp seed foods are safe for consumption and can provide a good alternative source of nutrients and polyunsaturated fatty acids, especially Omega-3 fatty acids.” The change is great news for Australian producers who are now able to gain access to a nascent global marker that is worth over $500 million.

Low-THC hemp contains minute or no delta 9-tetrahydrocannabinol, which is the psychoactive component of cannabis. The sale of hemp foods has been barred under the Australian and New Zealand Food Standards Code but the new laws will allow low-THC hemp to be legally sold as food.

Paul Benhaim, the founder of Hemp Foods Australia, a trained organic wholesaler, retailer, manufacturer and exporter, has been a prominent personality in the drive for legalisation in Australia for nearly two decades. He says that hemp is a “super-food that’s been around as far back as history records go” and is “one of the best plant-based balanced sources of Omega-3 and Omega-6 essential fatty acids and good quality plant-based protein.”

Aside from its nutritional values, Benhaim trumpets hemp’s cause further by saying that when eaten raw or processed, it is also quite tasty.

Hemp is a sustainable, pest-resistant crop that doesn’t need as much water than other food crops and less water and chemical application than other fibre crops. The product also boasts of numerous uses aside from being a viable food source. This includes textiles, bio-plastics, paper, fuel and the automotive industry.

Only seeds from low THC varieties can be legitimately used for food, and the new regulation also includes guidelines that pertain to labelling and advertising of hemp food products. Time will tell as to how well adopted hemp will be in Australia but all signs point to a flourishing new industry.