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Low-THC cannabis 'safe for consumption', says FSANZ

21st Nov 2012
Neil Bramwell   all articles by this author

THE food standards authority has given the green light to an application by a deregistered doctor for cannabis to be approved for use as a food in Australia.

But campaigners believe the recommendation for low-THC Cannabis sativa or hemp approval will not be rubber-stamped by government ministers.

The application, from Dr Andrew Katelaris, who was struck off for supplying medical cannabis to patients, would allow low-THC hemp seed and seed oil to be used in products such as ice cream, beer and nutrition bars at a maximum level of 10mg THC per kg.

But the decision by Food Standards Australia New Zealand (FSANZ) to ignore concerns, including the potential to mislead consumers that products had psychoactive properties or that hemp products would interfere with police drug testing, must now be approved by the COAG Legislative and Governance Forum within 60 days.

The FSANZ report said there was limited evidence to indicate whether consumption of hemp foods is likely to interfere with drug test results, citing an unpublished “in-house” study by the New Zealand Institute of Environmental Science and Research (ESR), which investigated THC residues in oral fluids following smoking high-THC cannabis cigarettes and “consumption of a cannabis cookie”.

An FSANZ statement read: “FSANZ is satisfied that low-THC hemp foods are safe for consumption when they contain no more than specified maximum levels. FSANZ has also recognised that foods derived from hemp seeds may provide a useful alternative dietary source of many nutrients and polyunsaturated fatty acids, particularly omega-3 fatty acids.”

Michael Balderstone, president of Help End Marijuana Prohibition (HEMP) Party, said: “We still don’t think [approval] is going to happen because the police will try to put a stop to it.”

However, Dr Katelaris, one of six brothers and sisters involved in the medical profession, was more optimistic of a positive outcome, despite the rejection of the previous application in 2002 on the grounds that approval might send a confusing message on the safety of cannabis.

He pointed to the dietary, agricultural and construction applications of the product as reasons for a change to the law.

“We want to see hemp as the spearhead of the new industrial revolution,” he said.

“Anything you can do with soy beans or dairy you can do better with hemp. We are saying eat hemp ice cream to your heart’s content as children are not getting enough omega-3.”

Dr Katelaris denied suggestions from within the HEMP party that his decision to lead the application for approval would send conflicting messages in light of his deregistration.

“I stand with great pride on my record. My last appeal was turned down on the grounds that I was insufficiently contrite, despite all the evidence of medical benefits of cannabis. The appeal process is a farce and I have lost interest. It’s a blessing in disguise because I can now be involved in medical experiments,” he said.

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