The official New Zealand Hemp Law: Hemp seed oil

A brief history of hemp regulation in New Zealand

Hemp has a very colourful history and each country of the world has its own hemp law in relation to growing and processing it. As well as a food source, hemp is used to make a variety of commercial and industrial products including rope, textiles, clothing, shoes, food, paper, bioplastics, insulation, and biofuel. It was one of the first plants to be spun into usable fibre 10,000 years ago.

Regulations for hemp seed oil

Prior to the Food (Safety) Regulations 2002, hemp seed oil could be legally sold in New Zealand under the general provisions in the New Zealand Food Regulations 1984. In 1995 the New Zealand Government entered into a treaty agreement with the Government of Australia to establish a system for developing a joint food standards code. Food Standards Australia New Zealand (FSANZ) developed the Australia New Zealand Food Standards Code (the Food Standards Code) over several years. After a two-year transition period, the Food Standards Code came into full effect on 20 December 2002, with a further transitional period of 2 years to sell food produced and packaged prior to this date.

Unlike the Food Regulations, the Food Standards Code includes a prohibition on the sale of parts of the cannabis plant under Standard 1.4.4 – Prohibited Botanicals. As a result, New Zealand would have had no legislation enabling the continuation of the sale of hemp seed oil after December 2002 if no other action was taken. In response to this situation, we developed provisions in the Food (Safety) Regulations 2002 as a transitional arrangement until such time as either a New Zealand or a joint standard might be incorporated into the Food Standards Code. The scope of the transitional provision relating to hemp was limited to hemp seed oil and it maintained the general provisions for hemp seed oil that existed under the New Zealand Food Regulations 1984.

Conditions for the production and sale of hemp seed oil 2002

The Food (Safety) Regulations 2002 set out the conditions for the production and sale of hemp seed oil for human consumption in New Zealand. Hemp seed oil produced or imported under the following conditions can be legally sold in New Zealand as a food or added to food products sold within New Zealand. These conditions are:
“26 (2) (a) in the case of hemp seed oil that is produced in New Zealand, the hemp seed oil is derived from cannabis seed from plants that are grown in New Zealand under and in accordance with any conditions attached to a licence to cultivate industrial hemp issued by the Director General of the Ministry of Health; and 26 (3) (b) in the case of hemp seed oil that is imported into New Zealand, the hemp seed oil must be tested by an analyst working in a laboratory approved under the Misuse of Drugs Act 1975 and has been authorised for sale and use.”

Review of the regulatory framework for hemp licensing trials for growers

Medsafe, the Ministry of Health’s medicine regulatory agency, reviewed the regulatory framework for hemp licensing trials. On the 1st of August 2006, a new regulatory regime for the cultivation, processing and distribution of industrial hemp as an agricultural crop was put in place.
Recent law changes regarding the consumption of hemp seeds as human foods (2018)

As described above, on 12 November 2018 the Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) announced hemp seeds to be allowed to be sold as food for human consumption. This means that the growing, manufacture and sale of the low-THC seeds for food is now permitted. The industrial hemp variety of Cannabis Sativa must have a THC content lower than 0.5 percent. Here in New Zealand, isn’t higher than 0.35 percent.

Animal Feed

Schedule 4 of the Agricultural Compounds and Veterinary Medicines Act does not prohibit the use of hemp in animal feed (for standing crops opened to animal grazing and oral nutritional compounds such as traded feed). We consider hemp grown in accordance with the Ministry of Health’s hemp trial licenses THC is unlikely to breach Schedule 4.

People who wish to grow, trade in, or process hemp still need to be licensed.

Food Sale

Recent hemp law changes regarding the consumption of hemp seeds as human foods means, the potential for New Zealand to join other countries in hemp cultivation, product development and distribution are now truly on the table.

The sale of hemp seed oil has been legal as a food in New Zealand since 2002. This earlier legislation allowed only hemp oil to be sold as a food or added to food. The cultivation of hemp was also allowed in accordance with specific Ministry of Health conditions. (See ‘a brief history of hemp legislation in NZ’ below)
Under the new Food (Safety) Regulations, it is now legal to sell other hemp products as food including hulled hemp seeds (hearts), hemp seed flakes and hemp seed protein.


HempFarm, with the first whole-hemp processing facility in the country, will now begin production on a variety of highly-anticipated items including milks, cheeses, beverages, cereals, protein bars and much more. With its ten years of cultivating and distribution experience, and its head office and processing plant in Tauranga, HempFarm is well positioned to increase New Zealand’s production and marketing potential.

The domestic sale of hemp in animal fodder, and the use of hemp fibre in the building industry, are other areas of potential growth. People who prefer to be less dependent on animal protein, can now incorporate a variety of hemp products into their diet. Chefs too can choose hemp when promoting nutrition as part of their menus.

HempFarm directors believe that the new legislation will improve understanding of the distinctions between hemp and its botanical cousin Cannabis Indica.
It is anticipated that public perception will become increasingly more supportive of hemp products for their proven nutritional value, their culinary versatility and their flavour.

Innovative use of hemp fibre as building insulation is a real alternative to less environmentally-friendly options. Globally hemp is now used as a biofuel as well as in many products. The potential for the hemp industry in New Zealand is huge. (link to field day doc.?)

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