'This a huge opportunity' - high nutrient hemp seeds could soon be legal for Kiwis to eat

New Zealand's first ever hemp conference, iHemp Summit, has been held in Wellington and Government Minister Damien O'Connor was one of the speakers.

Hemp is often stigmatised as it's a variety of cannabis, but is seen as having plenty of benefits. Source: 1 NEWS

The Government's looking to make law changes around hemp, to make human consumption of the seeds legal - deemed high in nutrients and rich in protein and fatty acids.

Hemp is currently allowed to be grown in New Zealand under permit, for things like fibre production and hemp oil.

Hemp seeds are illegal for humans to eat though - law changes expected by the government will follow similar moves overseas.

The plant gets a bad rap because it is a variety of cannabis and looks very similar to plants that are indeed illegal drugs.

But hemp has extremely low levels of the psycoactive component THC.

Entrepreneur Michael Mayell - famed as the co-founder of Cookie Time - says it is time for New Zealand take action to seize a great economic opportunity.

"There is still a lot of stigma around or attached to it, and the word hemp, and a lot of people's minds conjures up the drug marijuana. But it's got nothing to do with it. It's impossible to get high from hemp. It's a vegetable like spinach and kale and we should be eating it and treating it like spinach and kale," said Mr Mayell.

"This a huge opportunity for entrepreneurs and for New Zealand and we need to get on the front foot and be the leaders in this," he said.

Richard Barge, Chairman of the iHemp Summit says some analysts project hemp to be a $NZ75 billion dollar global industry by 2025.

Mr O'Connor spoke to the industry at the conference, telling it that some of the government's coalition partners have reservations.

"They're genuinely concerned about the effects of drug abuse in some regions, some of these regions could grow hemp, some people might be tempted to abuse that opportunity. I don't think they want to see that, none of us do," Mr O'Connor said.

"People might try and hide illegal plants in the crop. People, if they want to grow this industry, have to do the right thing. Most of them will, and so we have to ease the pathway for them to at least grow it and then they can work on the issues of processing it and turning it into high value products," he said.