Hikurangi Enterprises' hemp trial is ready for harvest, and this Friday the Ruatoria community can come and smell, touch and smoke the plant, and learn what it's all about.
The trust secured a licence from the Ministry of Health last year to establish a small trial crop of industrial hemp in Ruatoria.
Now, about 5000 plants are ready to harvest.
Manu Caddie is the business development manager and told RNZ’s Jesse Mulligan the idea to start the crop began a couple of years ago with the aim to boost the local economy.
He says most local farms grow sheep or beef, with a bit of forestry and none had particularly high value or were creating lots of jobs.
The trust went through the process of getting a licence and the crop was put in last year. He says there was a fair bit of red tape to get the licence.
“There’s quite a lot of rules around where you can grow it and how you have to hide it, you’ve got tell the police.
“That sort of stuff is a bit challenging, not impossible though.”
The crop is not allowed to be seen from a main road, or be too close to a school, and must be covered or protected in some cases.
While the regulations treat hemp as if it’s a drug, there’s no chance of getting high from it.
Caddie says the strain they grow has 0.1 percent THC, the main psychoactive substance in marijuana, well below what would give you a hit.
“You’d need a joint the size of a power pole but you’d probably suffer excruciating headaches before you got to the end of that, so you’re never going to get high from it.”
He says there is a risk of cross-pollination between the hemp and other local marijuana crops being grown for the black market.
“If theirs cross-pollinates with ours and raises the THC levels then we have to destroy the crop. So it’s something that we’re careful about.”
But Caddie is confident that marijuana will eventually be decriminalised.
“When it’s decriminalised the black market crops won’t have as much value.
“That will mean those families (growing it) are without that income. There’s a lot of skills in the community to grow the plant so if we can grow it in a way that does create jobs.”
He says their efforts are focused on the medicinal aspects of hemp, while others grow it for its seeds or fibres.
Caddie says there’s a lot of work to be done, but also lots of opportunities.
The harvest will take place this Friday and those interested should to meet at EIT campus Ruatoria on Hekiera Street at 8.30am to travel to the location.