Would you say yes to cannabis dessert? Australia would. Australia’s top food watchdog, Food Standards Australia New Zealand, officially cleared the use of cannabis in foods such as cake, ice cream and beer. While the idea of an ice cream sundae “à-la-cannabis” might not appeal to some, there are others who consider the combination of food and cannabis a dream come true.
FSANZ’s decision was influenced by an appeal made by Dr. Andrew Katelaris, a Sydney doctor who was de-registered for distributing medical marijuana to his patients. In his appeal, Dr. Katelaris highlighted the benefits of using cannabis in food, comparing it to soy products: “Our vision is that anything you can do with soy beans or dairy you can do better with hemp seed.”
While soy certainly has become a popular alternative to many foods like dairy and meat, Dr. Katelaris makes a valid point about hemp becoming a top competitor of soy. Hemp seeds are very high in protein, fiber and polyunsaturated fats. They also are great sources of micronutrients zinc, vitamin E, magnesium, phosphorus, iron, thiamin, calcium and potassium. Dr. Katelaris also noted that industrial hemp seeds have more Omega 3 fatty acids than seafood—good to know for people who aren’t crazy about fish.
Not surprisingly, the Australian government expressed concerns about hemp entering consumer food products. In particular, the risk of THC—the psychoactive chemical found in cannabis— triggering a positive drug test. FSANZ offered some reassurance, referencing scientific studies that reported a person would have to ingest eight teaspoons of hemp oil, or 300g of hemp seed, in order to fail a drug test—a task that is extremely unrealistic and unlikely.
FSANZ also did plenty of research on their own, finding no identifiable safety concerns associated with the consumption of hemp foods. In fact, the report confirmed that the levels of THC in hemp are so low that a person eating hemp food would not feel any psychedelic effects. In other words, any brownies made with hemp should not be confused with the infamous pot brownies, which are baked using marijuana leaves.
Whether or not hemp food receives positive feedback from consumers in Australia has yet to be determined. Although, hemp ice cream has already been seen on shelves of Whole Foods grocery stores in Europe and the United States—a possible sign that hemp food may just become the new soy, after all.
by Veronica Werhane
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