FEB. 2, 2010 - WEED IS GOOD - HEMP COMES TO THE CITY (AU)
Richard Friar loves growing dope. His backyard on the northern beaches is full of the stuff - 500 plants, to be precise.
But Mr Friar is no dealer, and this is no underground plantation. The 66-year-old and his wife, Wendy, are the proud owners of Australia's first licensed industrial hemp crop to be grown in an urban area.
The Friars are hemp evangelists, firm believers in the world-changing potential of this most versatile of plants, which can be used in everything from food to fabrics and building materials.
With permission from the Department of Primary Industries, they are in the first stages of a pilot project aimed at teaching farmers how to grow hemp and commercialise its myriad byproducts.
The Friars' crop, a mix of Chinese cultivars known as Yellow River and Lulu, is a fine example: the stalks can be used in the textile and construction industries - "they even use it, instead of steel, to reinforce concrete" - while the seeds can be eaten.
In December the couple applied to Food Standards for permission to sell the seed for human consumption, with approval expected early next year.