Countdown supermarkets is pulling a hemp tea product after 1 NEWS inquired about its legality.
The product breached numerous regulations, including featuring a cannabis plant on its label, but pro-hemp users say the tea is harmless, and a reform on hemp products is urgently needed.
Higher Living Organic Hemp Tea is imported from Britain, where it’s legal. The company also sells a large range of other organic teas, some of which are sold at Countdown.
The hemp tea clearly labels cannabidiol (CBD) which comes from a hemp plant related to cannabis and features a cannabis leaf on the packaging.
While CBD has no psychoactive compound, it's long been stigmatized.
Countdown has been selling the tea but pulled it from the shelves after a 1 NEWS inquiry.
Under New Zealand law, only products containing hemp seeds can be sold for consumption.
“The packaging doesn't look misleading in anyway as far as I can tell, which is interesting it should have been a bit more of a red flag for Countdown that the product did contain CBD,” Consumer NZ chief executive Jon Duffy said.
Countdown wouldn't talk to 1 NEWS on camera, but says hemp is a fairly new area and there's confusion around how it first made it onto its shelves back in August. It says all products go through a safety and quality process, which they are now reviewing.
Chris Fouley from The Hemp Store supports the tea and says the rules should change.
“I think the rules are wrong, I don’t think you need a prescription to get hemp tea, but because our rules are so stupid and so restrictive at the moment, that even Countdown finds themselves in breach of these rules, it's just ridiculous,” he told 1 NEWS.
Fouley says now is a good time to amend the rules, while the cannabis conversation is still fresh.
“We need to do it right now, we need to keep this momentum up and not think ‘ohh let’s have another review and kick it to touch for a few more years and maybe next parliament.'”
While the tea is no longer available in its supermarkets, Countdown is still offering it on its website.
“That could be quite serious for Countdown,” Duffy said.
He's encouraging the company to move quickly to make sure the products are not available to any consumer.