Legal poppies will make you die, not high

A NEW crop will be popping up across the state after all sides of politics agreed to lift a ban on poppy seed farming for medical use.

The Poppy Industry Bill's passage through New South Wales Parliament means the first alkaloid poppy crops will be planted next year, with potential growers and processors encouraged to put in for licences.

The Coalition, Labor, Greens and all minor parties and independents backed the call to legalise the new industry, already well underway in Tasmania and in its infancy in Victoria, Northern Territory and South Australia.

Anyone considering stealing seeds to chase the dragon should be warned.

The strain of poppies used to create heroin will remain illegal.

The legalised breed will be used to produce thebaine - an opiate alkaloid used in medicines, but likely to cause convulsions similar to those of strychnine or rat poison at high doses.

"It can kill a person," Labor MP David Harris told parliament.

"Sadly, even in the relative isolation of the existing poppy industry in Tasmania and despite the security precautions this has happened to some misinformed people."

Primary Industries Minister Niall Blair estimated the industry could be worth $100 million a year within a decade if current demand continued.

Tweed MP Geoff Provest supported the bill but was glad poppies would not be grown in or near his electorate.

"Because poppies need to be grown in a cool climate they flourish in Tasmania," he said.

"In the past the North Coast was renowned for growing drugs but we would like to see poppies grown elsewhere, for example, in the south."

Mr Provest said security needed to be high to stop theft of the dangerous crop.

"The fences around the poppy fields near Launceston in northern Tasmania are not very high but the fences around the processing plants remind me of the Katingal super-max prison at Long Bay," he said.

Ballina MP Tamara Smith said global demand for the crop had tripled since 1994 and was expected to continue to grow.

"It is the Greens' understanding that the aim of the NSW industry is to gain a share of this global growth and have up to 5000ha of poppies growing within five years," she said. -ARM NEWSDESK

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