Could Bundaberg become a medicinal marijuana hub?
WHEN it comes to cannabis, "there are generally two kinds of people," John Hall says.
"People who support it, and people who don't understand it."
The Bundaberg agricultural scientist joined forces with his brother Jim, a farmer, to grow the controversial crop.
As the benefits of medicinal marijuana become more widely recognised, and with the Queensland government last month joining New South Wales in passing laws approving it as a treatment, the brothers are applying for a licence to meet the imminent demand.
"From March 1, Queensland doctors will be able to prescribe it, and hopefully, from March 1, we'll be able to produce it," John said.
At their farm in Calavos their already grow several hectares of cannabis - but opportunists with illicit ideas in mind will be disappointed.
"We've had plants stolen over the years," Jim said.
"Rumour was one bloke got in trouble after he sold it as marijuana - and some associates put him in hospital."
The plant grown on the AgriFibre premises contains less than 0.4% tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC - the chemical that lends the drug psychoactive properties and gets users 'high'.
"Instead this contains CBD, or cannabidiol, which has been shown to relieve pain and anxiety," Jim said.
CBD is currently being investigated as an anti-psychotic treatment for patients with schizophrenia, according to the National Cannabis Prevention and Information Centre.
Hemp seeds are a grain similar to wheat and can be harvested in the same way.
As a food, it is very high in protein, while as a fibre it can be used in everything from clothing to building materials.
If regulations allow the plant to be more widely grown, it could become a revenue source for Bundaberg cane growers, Jim said.
"It's only four months from plant to harvest, so during the fallow period they can grow it, make money from it, and then plant the cane straight back in.
"As it breaks down it creates nutrients in the soil including nitrogen, so it's a win-win situation."
With medical marijuana, the farming and production is only a small percentage of the cost compared to the trials involved.
John Hall has been in Sydney meeting with investors to help provide the millions of dollars required to reach their goal.
"Countries like Brazil are looking for suppliers, Israel, Poland, the UK, and Australia will be there eventually," John said.
"They are all gearing up to be highly regulated. His understanding from meetings with the Federal Health department is that "there will only be a handful oflicences in Australia - maybe 20".
"We're very confident (of acquiring one) because we have an excellent team of biochemists and researchers" - including the third Hall brother, Roy, a professor of medical research at the University of Queensland.
"We've been researching for 15 years and we have the plant material ready."