Marijuana: Is Gympie sitting on a pot of gold?
WITH the finishing touches of a top-secret medicinal marijuana compound on the Sunshine Coast just months away, a University of Queensland agricultural expert has declared Gympie could be at the coalface of legal marijuana production.
Dr Peter Dart is an expert in agroforestry, biological control and international agriculture and he thinks Gympie's environmental conditions are perfect for large-scale production.
"It (medicinal marijuana) would grow perfectly well in Gympie," Dr Dart said.
"It is a hardy plant that would grow well in Gympie's sub-tropical climate."
Also an expert on waste water management, Dr Dart was part of a program that used effluent from sewerage to grow various plants, including hemp.
He said the program was stymied by the attitude of politicians and the public because of hemp's perceived hallucinogenic effects.
He thinks the opportunity for Gympie farmers to diversify into the medicinal marijuana trade would be lucrative and beneficial to the agriculture industry.
"It (marijuana) has always been a good crop because it is easy to grow because it does not require much input,' Dr Dart said.
"Australia's niche in the future will be in products like cannabis.
"We need to diversify out of the cereals and the big advantages are going to come out of the technology (we develop) into managing the crop.
"Australia is very good
at developing these technologies and cannabis has a high value and needs to be intensively managed."
However, Dr Dart warned that medicinal marijuana production would come with some hurdles for Gympie farmers looking to diversify.
"The difficulty with minor crops is guaranteeing a renewable supply.
"It is a good thing to whip up some interest now."
Meanwhile, a multi-million dollar medicinal marijuana project is under way on the Sunshine Coast and could be exporting within months.
The massive greenhouse is almost finished and works are currently being conducted on the security element of the site.
Member for Gympie Tony Perrett supported the introduction of medicinal marijuana legislation last year, but said there would be some inherent challenges for local farmers entering the industry.
"I am aware that the conditions to grow the crop are onerous in that growers and business owners are governed by significant regulatory and legal obligations," Mr Perrett said.
A Gympie council spokeswoman said the council would encourage the business, providing it was legal.
"Council has had no reason to consider the industry.
"However, Gympie Regional Council's Economic Development unit work towards attracting new business to the region,
while supporting local business to grow the region's economy."