High on hemp

AUSTRALIA is planning to resurrect hemp or Cannabis sativa, the -crop which once grew aplenty in the continent but was later abandoned by most farmers. Its high tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) content, which smokers reportedly find irresistible, led to widespread misuse of the crop.

But its amazing potential - hemp is used in paper making, fabrics, food, oil and herbal remedies - makes it too precious to be abandoned altogether. So the Australian government has authorised the state of Victoria to hold 10 field trials over 3 years.

This time, however, all precautions would be taken. "Applicants for permits (for cultivation) will also have to undergo police checks and demonstrate they can achieve satisfaciory field- site security," says Bill Baxter, the Australian agriculture minister. The state police and agriculture and health officials would monitor the tests to ensure the hemp plants contained low levels Of THC.